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Election Connection

Pulse of the Polls


What do political polls really mean? Are they more valid in aggregate than the daily ups and downs of the campaigns would have us believe? If you're only looking at the number, you might not be getting the full story of this election.

 

While the most recent numbers may make headlines, and publications like poll aggregator Real Clear Politics give some sense what's going on in the country's psyche, it's interesting to look beneath the numbers and focus on trends.


A search in Yahoo! Buzz index shows searches for Obama are nearly 20 percentage points above searches for McCain.



And on Google's Zeitgeist index, there's a similar search effect happening. But if we trusted search numbers to tell us the answer, Britney Spears or Paris Hilton would be far ahead of any politician.


To make some sense of what polls really tell us, this Bill Moyers report from 2002 with Daniel Yankelovich, an expert on on American values and public opinion, explains the need to be careful when reading poll results.



"I think that if I had to make one single suggestion it would be to ask yourself the question, when you look at the poll results, is this an issue where people have made up their minds? You may not know, but if you see inconsistencies, if the wording of the question changes the response," Yankelovich said.



Polls' wording may still be tricky, but some concerns that lingered in 2002 seem to be clearing up in 2008. A reader of Vote 2008 wrote in this week asking about whether cell phone numbers are included in polls, and if they aren't, whether that precludes polls' accuracy because the demographics of those surveyed would be different.


Major pollster Gallup notes in its current practices "Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only)."


For more best practices on polling, NOW on PBS provides a comprehensive check list for making a good poll and how to spot fallacies and misinformation.









62 Comments

K. Hodges said:

I am told you have a poll going about whether or not Sarah Pailin should be qualified for public office. Can't find it on your website. Could you direct me to it?
K. Hodges


Chuck Parker said:

What happened to the PBS poll "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be VP?"


Jim Burkett said:

There is a "poll" or a desguised campaign ad located at web site: http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

I would like to know if pbs.org has any connection to this site


Tom said:

Where's the poll asking if Obama is qualified to be President? I want to vote NO on that one!


Terri said:

I Agree with Tom, the question is "Is Obama qualified to be President?" and my answer is NO WAY! Obama is running for President not Sarah Pailin. I do not remember vice president being questioned about their qualifications to be president. The Democrats convenient reply is that this question needs to be asked because of John McCains age, but Obama has to be ready day one and he is just not experienced enough to handle the job!


I listen to NPR and watch and support PBS and it is very apparent that most of the programing and view pointes expressed are very much slanted to a democratic view point and liberal agenda!


joyce said:

See the following link:
http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

I agree with Tom. Where is the link asking if Obama is qualified? I want to vote NO WAY.


Denis said:

What happened to the PBS poll "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be VP?" Odd that it has disappeared.


Ryan said:

This poll was "freeped". Happens often, users on freerepublic.com list polls they want to skew and pile on it.
Go Obama!!!!!


With S. Palins experience that appears to dwarf B. Obama's, I have to wonder why no asks about his qualifications to lead?

You know, since he has no experience of leading, so far. Only 142 days of senate 'work'?


Harriet said:

CAN YOU GUESS WHO AM I?

I'm under 45 years old,
I love the outdoors,
I hunt,
I am a Republican reformer,
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment,
I have many children,
I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

Who am I?" Did you guess?

Give up? Scroll down


Teddy Roosevelt is the answer, Teddy Roosevelt in 1900. Did you think it was Sarah Palin?


Dan Morton said:

I too would like to see the PBS poll that asks whether readers think Obama is qualified to be president. In fact, I think the same question should be asked of Joe Biden, who we all know is a modest man who has much to be modest about.

Since PBS is a liberal organization, I KNOW these questions will never be asked.

Come on, guys - afraid of the results???


Dan Morton said:

I too would like to see the PBS poll that asks whether readers think Obama is qualified to be president. In fact, I think the same question should be asked of Joe Biden, who we all know is a modest man who has much to be modest about.

Since PBS is a liberal organization - funded by taxpayers, don't forget - I KNOW these questions will never be asked.

Come on, guys - afraid of what the results might be???


Pat Nozinich said:

Where on your site can I cast a vote as to the lack of fitness for Barack Obama to be President. I notice you have one questioning Sarah Palin's qualifications to serve as Vice President. My answer as to whether she is qualified is a resounding "yes." Any hope of fair play on your part here?


Nikos said:

Where is the Poll so I can vote for palin? Why is it gone? What's going on here?


Devon said:

I am using the polling widget on my site!


the Palin poll is located here:

http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

For anyone interested in voicing their opinion on her qualifications.


GM said:

You recently had a poll question that asked whether Gov Palin was ready to be VP? When are you going to run a poll question about whether Sen Obama is ready to be President?
Just curious.
A concerned voter in Texas


charlie Ford said:

I listen to and watch pbs. I do not support financialy because they are soooo liberal. They cant have religous teaching yet I turn on the tube and here is some guy teaching a room full of people humanistic religion.
Go figure! This campaign coverage has sure been skewed. I would have more respect for them if they would just admit their biast.


PMChilcote said:

Winston Churchill quote: Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over
30, and is not a conservative, has no brains. This really says it all, doesn't it.

Vote for the only choice: McCain-Palin the ticket with the BRAINS!


They took it down when Sarah Pailin took a big lead


Jerry said:

Lets be fair...Lets vote no to obama as President !!


Vote for the only choice: McCain-Palin the ticket with the BRAINS!

Wait -- John McCain and Sarah Palin are zombies?


sandy hotard said:

Shame on PBS- Sarah Palin represents millions of women across this country who NOW feel there is a chance for thempszznt to have a voice in Washington D.C. --- leave her alone and let her get her message out!!!


wfleischer@earthlink.net said:

One commenter wrote that Sarah Palin should be allowed to get her message out. But it is the McCain campaign that has restricted her access to the mainstream news media for interviews. They have only let her get her message out in pre-scripted speeches.

In those speeches she says she is a hockey mom. But how many hockey moms are governors? She says she is a fiscal conservative, but she ran up the debt of both Wasila and Alaska. She says she was against the bridge to nowhere but that was only after she was for it and until it got exposed. She says she is a reformer but in power she chose her friends for government jobs even though they had no relevant expertise or experience. She says she is read to be VP - which, if McCain should die in office means she is ready to be President - but she can not credibly say she has any expertise on any of the troubling issues of our time - the degradation of our environment and climate change; the shakey economy; the terrorism engulfing the world; volatile international situations.

We all want a leader who understands our struggles to pay the mortgage, tuition, retirement but we want someone with at least as much education and sophistication as the world leaders with whom they will have to negotiate on behalf of our country.

I don't believe PBS issued this so called "poll" because the poll was not isseud by PBS. PBS would not conduct a poll in this unscientific way - they would ensure that their respondents were random, that they represented the cross section of the population. I believe this is yet another dishonest action of the McCain campaign to rig a "poll" from a respectable news organizations to show misleading amounts of support for Palin where it does not actually exist.

Let's let Sarah Palin get her message out by asking the McCain campaign to allow her to be interviewed by all the press that have interviewed Joe Biden. Let's ask her to debate Biden. Lets ask the McCain campaign to conduct an above-the-board, honest debate on the issues and to let the only poll that matters be the vote that people make on election day.


Robert Bowen said:

Howdy, I noticed the Gov. Sarah Palin poll has disappeared from your website. The one asking if she is qualified for the VP position. Perhaps you're not showing the URL because the 'yes' votes have her at 52%! Why don't you ask if Obama is qualified? You all are a bunch of liberal elitist and I'm fedup with my tax money supporting PBS. Here's the link for the poll section -

http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html


esjay said:

where is the Sarah Palin qualification poll?


FEL said:

This Poll is useless to predict anything other than level of "obsession with online 'clicking'" that exists in the general public. PBS needs to create parameters which reflect one person one vote. This poll cannot be taken seriously by Palin supporters or detractors.


Nacoleon Hillsman said:

What does the goverment plan on doing about creating new jobs and the troops over sees?


Nacoleon Hillsman said:

What does the goverment plan on doing about creating new jobs and the troops over sees?


Katie said:

http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html

This is the poll link just sent to me via e-mail.


Tom Tindall said:

I like Katie just received mail about the Palin poll but can not find it. If in fact the poll shows a 39% yes and a 61% no then where are the stats to back this up?


Marty Chen said:

I think this poll is not legitimate..People can vote as many times as they like, and it appears many people have done just that. The numbers are not credible. And the comments above are emotional and express a strong anger toward PBS as well as toward Democrats. Why do you have this "poll"? A poll is one person per vote. Just like in an election.


Eric Chandler said:

Sarah Palin's record as mayor and governor is a legitimate issue in this campaign. To date, there appears to be ample evidence that Ms. Palin has used her offices to pursue personal agenda, that she has arbitrarily dismissed qualified and experienced staff and replaced them with underqualified friends, and that she has disguised her active role in pursuit of Federal earmarked funds, for which Alaska is notorious.
I pray that in the coming weeks we are able to focus on the issues that will define the future of our nation, and elect an Administration devoted to the well-being of the flesh-and-blood citizens, not merely its largest corporations, and reject the policies of the present Administration that employed the oil industry to create our energy policy (giving us six-dollar diesel fuel, record profits for Exxon-Mobil, and still no plan to create a sustainable non-petroleum economy), an Administration that listens to the insurance industry lobby and failed to create a national health care system, an Administration that used lies and fear-mongering to embroil us in an unneccesary war, an Administration whose policies have created the need for a trillion-dollar bailout of our financial marketplace, and so on and so on.
If we make our decisions in November based upon the track record of the past eight years we can look forward to Obama's inauguration with confidence and relief.


J. Schwarzmeier said:

This "poll" is a sham. People can vote as many times as they have patience to sit there continuously clicking the Yes or No buttons. The results are meaningless and should not be used in any way. It's unbelievable that PBS would have such an unscientific interactive device on their website. It should be removed, no matter which way the votes are leaning.


Pam Shack said:

I just sent this to the PBS ombudsman, http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/:

Re the Sarah Palin poll: it appears that people may vote as many times as they like. I believe that if PBS conducts online polls, they should make sure that the voting is limited to one vote per person, or at least one vote per CPU. How else can they prevent stacking the vote or other bias? This is no better than the voting for contestants on reality shows. The word has gone out: "Vote early, vote often." People will be influenced by this poll. Sad.


Andrea Gomez said:

I agree with those who question the validity of this poll. To be able to vote repeatedly and have the same percentage points outcome result every single time is very odd indeed, especially after Ms. Hertzfeld's topic of fairness in polls. Could you please respond?


Karen Lovely said:

I am absolutely DISGUSTED with what the Republican machine has done to this country. Bush and his cronies acting out of pure greed and a sense of entitlement, have DESTROYED this country.

Palin is an IDIOT. It isn't about whether she is qualified to be VICE PRESIDENT, but PRESIDENT. Does anyone remember what 2nd in command means?

What is wrong with you people? Palin qualified? My dog is better qualified and would certainly do less harm.


jet-tech said:

This will be the third attempt to make a comment on this site. Quit your crying about a poll, when Palin was losing it was ok. Now that she is ahead the poll is skewd. I see professional bloggers (Obama campagners) have come out in force denouncing the poll. God forbid a liberal public broadcast station show Palin ahead. By the way, why do they always compare Obama with Palin? She's only running for VP, I mean I would expect her to not match up with a primary canidate on either side. JUST A THOUGHT. Lets see if PBS changes the link again. I will report it to grassroots and media research groups for more scrutinizing. Jet


Caroline Rider said:

Sarah Palin is definitely not qualified for higher office of any type.....because she has extremist views that will tend to capsize the ship of state if she ever is put at the helm, AND because she has already demonstrated that she does not respect the rule of law -- trying to ban books at the Wazilla Public Library and then trying to fire the librarian when the librarian defied that abuse of power shows you that she is a Dictator in Waiting. And a lot of Alaskans agree. The largest political demonstration ever held in Alaska was an ANTI-Palin demonstration just recently.


Elle said:

Barack Obama has more time leading than Sarah Palin. He was a state Senator before he was a US Senator - get over it, people. Palin governed fewer people than live in Lower Manhattan and continues to lie on national television about "the Bridge to Nowhere" and how she cut earmarks out - she's a liar. And not qualified to be VP. Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she's good for the role or would help women in any way.


Joan said:

Hey Harriet,

CAN YOU GUESS WHO I AM?

I am under 45 years old,
I love the outdoors,
I hunt,
I am a Republican reformer,
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment,
I have many children,
I served on the United State Civil Service Commission for 6 years,
I was President of the New York City Police Commission for 2 years,
I was Assistant Secretary of the Navy,
I formed the First U.S.Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (Rough Riders),
I commanded the regiment and achieved the rank of Colonel,
I received the Medal of Honor for my actions in the Spanish-American War,
I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years
as governor of New York State. one of the most populous and diverse states in
the union.
Any guesses?

I sure as h*** ain't Sarah Palin

I am Teddy Roosevelt in 1900


Ron L. said:

You have a poll asking if your readers think Sarah Palin is qualified to be VP. I'm sure I'm just missing your poll asking if Obama is qualified to be president, right? After all, you're not so bigoted and intolerant toward Republicans that you wouldn't not put a poll up about Obama, are you? Are you afraid of what the people might say about your liberal leader? Please give us the link to find that Obama poll.


ernie said:

Karen Lovely sort of said:
"I am absolutely DISGUSTED with what the Democrat machine has done to this country. Pelosi and her cronies acting out of pure greed and a sense of entitlement, have DESTROYED this country.
Obama is an IDIOT. It isn't about whether he is qualified to be VICE PRESIDENT, but PRESIDENT. Does anyone remember what 1st in command means?
What is wrong with you people? Obama qualified? My dog is better qualified and would certainly do less harm."

Don't mean to twist what you're saying there, Karen...OK, maybe I do.


MARY ALICE RICHERT said:

I can't find the "Is Palin, etc. poll" but am still looking. I did see her today with Karzai. She WAS awfully cute and giggly. Presidential? not so much.


Jerry Greene said:

I plan on planting signs in yard as well as emailing everyone I know regarding this election! Emails can be deleted and as usual the signs continue to get ripped out, however they get replaced!
!!!!!!!!!!!GWB-8….MC-4…..SP-8 !!!!!!!!!


Ron C. said:

Seems as though PBS is following the rest of the media trying to push their opinion on the public (the ones that fund PBS, maybe that will change). If you are going to do a poll it should be consistent to all candidates, and limit votes to one per person/computer. Shame on you PBS

Although on the other hand, as an informed voter, I think PBS and the other media outlets are going to do more to push Obama out of the race than his opponent!


kate said:

I would like to know why the question is regarding Sarah Palin and not Barack Obama. The last time I checked Sarah Palin was only running for VICE PRESIDENT and Barack NOBAMA was running for PRESIDENT why is no one asking this question of him???????????? Pretty disapointing. I would like to know what kind of results that poll might have.


D. Adams said:

I think the question is not, "Is Gov. Palin qualified to be VP?" The question should be, "Is Gov. Palin qualified to be President of the United States?" Let's not forget that she is next in line, should anything happen to her running mate.


jon gallo said:

sarah palin with anti witch craft priest in alaska


Rachel Wood said:

We need to ask ourselves... Do we want someone who trusts the words of a witch hunting pastor?
Is this the kind of person we want anywhere near The White House?
I am truly scared that she has even been considered for this position. Yes it was all very dramatic and appealing at the beginning, but lets return to reality now, and buy her a one way ticket back to Alaska...where I gather she's not wanted either.


Bert said:

Rachel Wood sort of said:
We need to ask ourselves... Do we want someone who trusts the words of a WHITE hating pastor?
Is this the kind of person we want anywhere near The White House?
I am truly scared that he has even been considered for this position. Yes it was all very dramatic and appealing at the beginning, but lets return to reality now, and buy her a one way ticket back to Chicago...where I gather he's not wanted either.


karen lovely said:

Ernie needs to speak for himself. To recap, what I SAID was:

I am absolutely DISGUSTED with what the REPUBLICAN machine has done to this country. Bush and his cronies acting out of greed and a sense of entitlement, are destroying this country.
BUSH is an IDIOT. PALIN is an IDIOT. It isn't about whether Palin is qualified to be VICE PRESIDENT, but PRESIDENT. Palin qualified? My dog is better qualified and would certainly do less harm.


Ernie said:

I know what you said. Apparently, irony is dead at pbs.org.

I am absolutely DISGUSTED with what the DEMOCRAT machine has done to this country. PELOSI and her cronies acting out of pure greed and a sense of entitlement, have DESTROYED this country.
OBAMA is an IDIOT. It isn't about whether he is qualified to be VICE PRESIDENT, but PRESIDENT. Does anyone remember what 1st in command means?
What is wrong with you people? Obama qualified? Karen's dog is better qualified and would certainly do less harm.


Shamika said:

To see Sarah Palin more clearly, even after this poll and the debates, clink on this link I ran across today that really puts 'caribou barbie’ in her place. Ron Allen Ferrets out the TRUTH about her qualifications. Enjoy!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN54Fb9dLKs&NR=1


Garth said:

WOW! Obviously the McCain/Palin campaign found this site let their "cronies" know about it in an email blast and the cronies bombed it with rhetoric. My friends For those who seem upset that PBS is liberal, where have you been the last 30 years? PBS is donation funded television programming. They care about the citizens and children of America and bring you educational programming. Education I know, is something "Joe 6-pack" could care less about unless it comes from some hacks mouth like O'Reilly. My friends, yes concern for education is liberal, which is worth a hell of a lot more that being conservative because you'll be taxed more if you're millionaire (GREED!) I'm guessing you got an email from the campaign telling you to get over to this site and let "them" have it" you took a break from Fox wrote something you heard Rush or Savage say once that you thought "really got 'em!" PBS is one of the greatest things about America, it's unfortunate you've been brainwashed to believe otherwise.


I'm not done



My friends, for the moronic conservative bandwagoners who can't think for themselves, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln for that matter would make McCain cry in shame and strip him being republican. Roosevelt led an HONEST, HARDWORKING life. McCain led a privileged spoiled brat's life. McCain, like Bush, is a spoiled fuck-up who stumbled his way up the ladder because of his hard working, honest, father and grandfather. A newsflash to modern republicans, you are nothing like the republicans of the past. You never will be if you keep electing rich, spoiled, spoiled fuck-ups. However, you'll just keep that train rolling with lack of research or care because you think being republican is being #1, more Christian, and more American. Unfortunately your wrong.



My friends, if your going to be a republican and quote great republicans of the past, ACTUALLY follow their footsteps. Be a worthwhile citizen instead of neo-con peddler. Don't vote McCain this election, he is, to put it bluntly, a shit-head. Also, the discussion about Palin needs to end. Is she actually qualified? NO, but who cares!? It's the cabinet, House, Senate and corporations that make the republicans decisions, not her. She's attractive and charming and is a tool to gain votes, particularly white women votes. I know it's hard to believe friends but it's true. Well fishies, I hope you can get that republican hook out of your mouth and actually see where the line leads to. That ain't heaven up their gang...just sayin.


John Strong said:

Yes, she is qualified. There are about 100,000 people in America that I would prefer over her.
The president doesn't do much, they select the team that does the work. McCain picked for his science: committee: a former CEO of eBay, former CEO of HP, defense secretary and a couple other non-scientists. Obama picks real scientists. McCain picked Mayor Palin to be VP. Obama picked a real leader to be VP.


Amy said:

In response to Garth...I have to be honest, your posting was an absolute turn-off to any undecided voters or independents. You sound like a vulgar and angry person. I don't think you got across the point you were trying to make instead you showed rage and ignorance. I was pretty open at the beginning on the election, but I have been very disappointed at the media and how Obama supporters have been acting.
I love how liberals preach tolerance and being open-minded, but I have yet to meet one that actually practices what they preach. You are only tolerant of your viewpoints and beliefs. Liberals preach peace, yet they are the ones that cause violence at demonstrations. For example, there was some violence outside the Republican National Convention and people were arrested (Obama supporters) and there was no violence outside the Democratic National Convention, but you're right liberals, you are so tolerant and peaceful!!
As for your comment stating that education is a liberal thing, that is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. You really are a bitter human being. I wish you peace and the ability to open your mind. God bless you and God bless America.


Del said:

We need a question whether Obama is qualified to be President, after the last debate! I feel he is not qualified at all to be President! Make a Poll for Obama and I'll vote NO WAY!!


Sammi Sampson said:

It says a lot about the mentality of your poor liberals who whine that the poll is skewed, that people can vote as often as they like.

It's true that you can click on your choice and click on the "vote" button as often as you want. Go right ahead and do so. Vote 'til your heart's content. Wear out your finger and waste your time.

If you were smart enough to notice, the same screen that shows you cumulative percentage of votes cast also shows the total number of persons who've voted. Your second, third or fifteenth vote will NOT be counted.


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