Do Pollsters Really Matter? I Think Not


I have a very strong disapproval rating of political polls, and have had for nearly six decades. However, I still monitor them because I firmly believe they have a strong influence on some voters. I’m referring to the voter who only answers the call of his/her political party and would vote a straight-party ticket if Osama Bin Laden was running for president. People who could basically care not, as long as their party candidates win.  In essence, and by sheer ignorance, they put party politics ahead of their country. If you asked a thousand such voters to identify one plank in their party’s platform, most would ask “What’s a party platform?”

Take a look at today’s Rasmussen Reports daily survey results concerning President Obama’s job approval:

“Intensity of support or opposition can have an impact on campaigns. Currently, 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way Obama is performing as president. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove, giving him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15 (see trends).

During midterm elections, intensity of support can have a tremendous impact on turnout.  That was demonstrated in 2010 when Republicans and unaffiliated voters turned out in large numbers to express opposition to the Obama administration’s policies. However, in presidential election years, there is a smaller impact on turnout.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company whose work is followed by millions on a wide variety of platforms.  We regularly release our results at, through a daily email newsletter, a nationally syndicated radio news service, an online video service and a weekly newspaper column distributed by Creators Syndicate.”

Now take a look at the heaviest criticism – and totally biased, as well, I might add – from Nate Silver’s 538 Blog, a regular feature of the New York Times.  This critique was published in November of 2010 and is scathing, to say the very least.

“Rasmussen’s polls have come under heavy criticism throughout this election cycle, including from FiveThirtyEight. We have critiqued the firm for its cavalier attitude toward polling convention. Rasmussen, for instance, generally conducts all of its interviews during a single, 4-hour window; speaks with the first person it reaches on the phone rather than using a random selection process; does not call cellphones; does not call back respondents whom it misses initially; and uses a computer script rather than live interviewers to conduct its surveys. These are cost-saving measures which contribute to very low response rates and may lead to biased samples.

Rasmussen also weights their surveys based on preordained assumptions about the party identification of voters in each state, a relatively unusual practice that many polling firms consider dubious since party identification (unlike characteristics like age and gender) is often quite fluid.

Rasmussen’s polls — after a poor debut in 2000 in which they picked the wrong winner in 7 key states in that year’s Presidential race — nevertheless had performed quite strongly in in 2004 and 2006. And they were about average in 2008. But their polls were poor this year.

The discrepancies between Rasmussen Reports polls and those issued by other companies were apparent from virtually the first day that Barack Obama took office. Rasmussen showed Barack Obama’s disapproval rating at 36 percent, for instance, just a week after his inauguration, at a point when no other pollster had that figure higher than 20 percent.”

It’s not terribly difficult to detect the Obama/Democrat love just dripping from every paragraph of Silver’s piece.  If he toned down the rhetoric his words might hold some serious significance, but even Nate can’t resist the chance to cheer on his fellow Democrats and support the NYT’s glaring partisan political stance, as well.

If you’re able to see through the dense political fog pattern that both Rasmussen and Silver lay down, you can actually glean some numbers that ARE important and are difficult to fudge.

Whenever poll results are released – and it doesn’t matter too much from whom they come – pay attention to the numbers reflected by the Independent voters.  Those are the only results I consider reasonably accurate, and it’s Independent voters who make the major difference in almost every election.  Independents will certainly play a critical role in the results November 6th.

I include myself among those Independents.  I’ve never voted a straight party ballot in any election in my entire life.  I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, and even a few “off party” candidates (simply as a protest vote against the major candidates) and I suspect I’ll continue to do so the rest of my life.

This year – unless some dramatic revelation causes me to think otherwise – I’ll be voting for Mitt Romney.  I honestly believe the future of our nation depends on it.