By Emil Franzi
Like much that was standard issue in prior elections, the once useful averaging by Real Clear Politics has become flawed and probably obsolete without some decent reforms.
RCP takes a variety of mostly legit polling firms and averages their results. First problem – the inherent bias in almost all poll questions, second the different sampling methods use by a variety of different pollsters. This wasn’t a purposeful problem when the pollsters were all pretty much on the level. Some aren’t and it only takes a few to denigrate the whole process.
Try this. As a pollster you take a survey for a client who supports candidate X. The client biases the survey intentionally so that candidate has a wider lead. This can happen even with the occasional legit “outlier”. Here’s the first game that can be played.
Don’t replace it. What made 2016 so different than 2012 is the speed in which trends and switches developed. The age of the poll mattered less four years ago. A month old poll is functionally worthless today, but if left in the mix, it will skew the result.
Let’s move on to the marginally shady “legit” pollsters. They can skew the answers to their client’s favor, throw it in the mix, and never replace it.
Add to that the continued inability of most pollsters to get more than a small percentage of those called to even respond are left with a problem most pollsters duck on answering.
While you know the demographics on those who respond may correctly match your preconceived expectations, what about the demographics of those – the vast majority – who refused? Nobody answers this crucial issue..
Even without the gaming that can move the average by several points (and can be done by both sides – this is not a wholly Democrat scam) – the RCP methodology needs realistic updating such as dropping material older than two weeks or even less… and asking more from those who are put into the mix.
Emil Franzi is the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Yes, that is his high school picture. Deal with it.
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