Daniel W. Drezner

So you want to know more about polls….

Michael Crowley has a great analysis of the current state of play on polls and polling in The New Republic:  The most interesting detail is how SurveyUSA’s Jay Leve chooses who to record the firm’s automated poll questions:  While most pollsters employ real people–sitting in call centers, wearing headsets–to gather data for them, Leve relies ...

Michael Crowley has a great analysis of the current state of play on polls and polling in The New Republic:  The most interesting detail is how SurveyUSA’s Jay Leve chooses who to record the firm’s automated poll questions: 

While most pollsters employ real people–sitting in call centers, wearing headsets–to gather data for them, Leve relies on these machines. His innovation is to get news anchors from local television affiliates in the areas he’s sampling to record scripts for him. A trusted anchor’s voice conveys that the call is “legitimate, authentic, civic-minded, and not a scam,” Leve says, and people are less likely to hang up on the call. (In return for their anchors’ services, the affiliates get to make use of Leve’s findings.) A SurveyUSA poll is like an airline’s automated customer-assistance system–press one if you support John McCain, press two for Barack Obama–except that you receive the call instead of placing it. With the raw results in hand, Leve will make some technical adjustments and write an analysis, which he will send to one of the more than 50 media outlets that commission his work and feature it in their print and television news stories. This sort of computerized polling is controversial–but also increasingly popular, thanks to its lightning speed and low cost. “Gallup might charge $10,000 and take four to five days,” Leve boasts. “We can do that in one night, for maybe a thousand dollars.”

Meanwhile Nate Silver provides a fair and balanced analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of all of the national tracking polls floating around

UPDATE:  Kevin Drum provides the most accurate prediction about exit polls you will ever read

ANOTHER UPDATE:  Sam Wang has an interesting post on the incentives of pollsters and media outlets who use them — but I think he’s exaggerating the phenomenon he describes. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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