The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

September 24, 2012

For today’s polls, accuracy is credibility

Monday, September 24, 2012 — RALEIGH — In my other job as editor of the state government newsletter, “The Insider,” the topic of how to deal with polls never goes away.

A couple of decades ago, news organizations had pretty cut-and-dried rules about polls.

Then, polls came in two main varieties: those commissioned by news outfits, and conducted by companies like Gallup and Mason-Dixon, that would be reported on and disseminated by the media; and those commissioned by the candidates’ campaigns that wouldn’t be disseminated by the media for fear of being manipulated by the campaigns.

Campaign consultants would sometimes discuss their private polling numbers with reporters, but reporters typically approached those discussions with a good dose of skepticism.

We live in a different world today.

As automated polls be-came more refined and gained more credibility, more companies sprang up conducting polls.

And the motives of those involved became a bit more complex.

Today, some of the same polling firms that work for candidate campaigns conduct other surveys that they distribute freely. Some political consultants have started their own polling operations, and distribute some findings to the news media. Some advocacy or-ganizations commission polls while also trying to influence elections.

At “The Insider,” we err on the side of publishing most North Carolina poll results that come across the desk.  

With a specialized readership focused on state government issues, we want subscribers to have information that is out there that might affect them. It’s also a sophisticated readership that understands bias in polls.

If I were a newspaper editor, I might have a different take on the publication of poll results because of the potential for bias, bad data and manipulation.

That issue of bias recently came up after the conservative Civitas Institute issued poll findings showing Republican Mitt Romney leading Democratic Pres-ident Barack Obama by 10 percentage points in North Carolina.

It’s possible, right? It might be except that the poll showed Romney enjoying the support of 30 percent of African Americans and 60 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34.

In any other polls, in this or any other state, Obama enjoys much stronger support among those demographics.

The poll is no different than one that might show Obama leading among white retirees. It’s a bad poll.

Instead of publishing it, the good folks over at Civitas should have tossed it in the trash and demanded their money back from the polling firm.

The other major distributor of polls in North Carolina is a Democratic-leaning polling firm called Public Policy Polling.

That affiliation has Republicans suspicious of its findings, and there was at least one instance in 2010 when its demographic weighting looked strange.

Of course, the bottom line regarding these polling outfits’ credibility is their accuracy.

If Civitas publishes too many more polls like its most recent offering, I guess I’ll have another conversation about polls.    

And if, unlike in 2008, PPP’s surveys in 2012 prove highly inaccurate, I’ll have yet another such conversation.  


Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • D.G. Martin Read others’ views to be better informed, decide for yourself

    “I don’t read The Washington Post. That is not where I get my ideas.”

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon This isn’t medical marijuana

    As state legislators debated allowing the use of an extract from marijuana plants to treat seizure disorders over the past couple of weeks, it was evident that social conservatives – there are many of them in the General Assembly – felt a tinge of unease about it, even as almost every one of them voted yes.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Friends and contentment

    Last week I made my annual trip up the mountain to Sparta. My friends have a secluded home near a babbling brook. Their home and property are a haven for peace. It’s a two-plus hour ride to their home that doesn’t feel that long because I look so forward to my time with this great couple. When I arrive, the conversation seems to pick up right where we left it the last time we saw each other.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thanks for the honest deed

    I would like to thank the person that found my wallet in the parking lot of Harris Teeter on July 23 and turned it in to the Albemarle Police.

    July 29, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • We need your help

    Hurray for the Albemarle City Council. Council plans to battle N.C. Department of Transportation’s ranking of all 13 projects in Stanly County to the bottom of their priority list. Council is setting up petitions in various city buildings for citizens to sign.

    July 28, 2014

  • Council asks veterans to seek office

    The terms of office for the leaders of the Stanly County Veterans Council ended June 30. A call is being sent to veterans council members requesting candidates for the four elective offices of the council. A meeting has been set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the DAV building. All council members are urged to attend.

    July 28, 2014

  • Mike Walden The gains and gaps in our economy

    Twice a year, I pull out my cloudy crystal ball and attempt to make some predictions about the direction and pace of the North Carolina economy. I just finished my latest effort and, as usual, the results are a combination of pluses and minuses.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd Yellow journalism takes on new form, people are dumber for it

    Time to get on the soapbox for a few minutes.
    Let me clear my throat. Eh ... hem!
    People are dumb.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

    RALEIGH – A busy slate of judicial elections this November got even busier recently when Judge John Martin of the N.C. Court of Appeals announced his retirement.
    A special statewide election to fill Martin’s seat will be added to the general election ballot, joining the four N.C. Supreme Court seats and three N.C. Court of Appeals races already slated for this fall.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content