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What They Don’t Talk About About Polls

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November 6, 2022 11:43 a.m.

There are going to be big political winners and losers on Tuesday. But there are also going to be big polling winners and losers. Through this cycle different classes of pollsters have been seeing a very different race. Wednesday morning we’re going to know who was right and wrong. But here’s an aspect of polling that doesn’t get talked about enough. It’s not just accuracy. There’s another part of this.

We know that polling has gotten both harder to do and more expensive to do as fewer people respond to polling phone calls. If one out of twenty calls gets answered, that’s a much more expensive proposition than if one out of three does. So non-response has been driving up the costs of polling, and that’s overwhelmingly hitting the pollsters who use live callers. Live calls are generally considered the most accurate, though it’s far from certain whether that’s still the case. Non-response also puts accuracy under growing strain because pollsters need to make sense of which political groupings are more or less likely to respond. If non-response is identical across all political affiliations it’s not a problem from an accuracy perspective. But that’s almost certainly not the case.

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