Gallup Defends 2012 Polling

The Gallup organization on Tuesday defended its polling of the 2012 presidential election in a memo posted on its website. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup and author of the memo, argued that the organization’s final estimate of the national popular vote showing Mitt Romney with 50 percent to President Barack Obama’s 49 percent was “well within the statistical margin of error.”

Gallup’s polling came under sharp scrutiny during the final stretch of the campaign for showing Romney with much wider national leads than other outlets. A study from Fordham University last week ranked Gallup as one of the least accurate pollsters in the 2012 cycle.

More from the memo:

As our tradition has been in presidential election years, Gallup’s focus this year was on producing an estimate of the national popular vote. We don’t “predict” the election, nor do we make estimates of the Electoral College. In the end, Gallup’s national popular vote estimate was that the popular vote was too close to call, a statistical tie — 50% for Mitt Romney, 49% for Barack Obama. When the dust settled, Romney got 48% of the popular vote and Obama received 50%, meaning that Gallup’s percentage-point estimate was within two percentage points for Romney and within one point for Obama. The “gap” difference was three points. All of these are well within the statistical margin of error and underscore the accuracy of random sampling today, even with all of the challenges provided by changing forms of communication (i.e., cellphones), changing demographics, lowered response rates, identifying likely voters, and a wide variety of other factors.


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