By David Schwartz
The old adage could not be more accurate when it comes to modern political polling, “garbage in, garbage out.” The recent elections have proven, once and for all, that the polling organizations in use by candidates, organizations and the media have lost their way in accurately predicting elections. It’s almost comical when they qualify their poll with a margin of error of 3%. How about a margin of error of 10 to 20%. In all fairness, we have seen a great deal of polling inaccuracies dating back to 1948, when every poll had Dewey beating Truman by 15 points. Even back then, the polls forgot about all of the rural voters who did not have phones and could not participate in the polls. In 1980, the polls showed President Carter in a battle with Ronald Reagan that was too close to call. President Reagan ended up winning by a comfortable ten points and the electoral college vote was a landslide victory. More recently, every poll showed President Obama beating Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Primary by 8 points; Clinton took that primary by 3 points. Now we have the newest set of local inaccuracies in the New York races for Nassau and Westchester County Executive, NYC Mayor, 23rd congressional race; the polls were all wrong. We hear it must have been “voter revolt,” but why did the polls not identify the potential voter revolt?
What is the problem with modern day polling? Very simple, polling is an art and not a science. Unfortunately, the garbage in, garbage out theory is very much in effect in modern day polling. The key problems are that polls are being done over the internet and over the phone. The intake process has no personal contact with the voters. How can pollsters possibly gauge what voters are thinking when they only poll people over landlines? Up to 7% of voters only have a cell phone and they tend to be the younger voters. The more important problem of current polling is that pollsters do not walk the neighborhoods and actually talk to the people and hear about their problems and concerns with the government. The pollsters feel it’s not cost effective. A poll does not have a chance of being accurate without having trained professionals figuring out the true feelings of the voters about various issues and how they really feel about candidates. The only way to achieve this is through a mixture of personal, on the ground polling and at the same time, conducting in depth focus groups conducted by trained lawyers and psychologists in order to get the most accurate answers possible.
At Gotham Government Relations, we are not a polling company, but we provide real grass roots political intelligence. We fix the problems of the polling industry by providing our clients with real on the ground intelligence about how the voters are actually feeling. Our goal is to demonstrate the value of good old fashioned, roll up your sleeves, grass roots campaigns to find out what is really on the minds of the voters and who they really plan on pulling the lever for next November. We will be on a campaign to provide candidates, the media and organizations, with the most accurate data on key issues and races. We will provide in depth analysis provided by trained professionals including lawyers, psychologists and statistical experts. We will be in your community very soon, conducting a listening campaign to get the real answers. We will put the brains back into campaign intelligence, whereby polling is just a piece of a much larger puzzle.
David Schwartz is a partner at Gotham Government Relations