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Just how accurate are the polls?


We all know certain polls have certain biases built in, whether its oversampling one of the two parties or even various geographic and demographic groups.

But if you get past all of that, it's important to note that a poll's response rate can have serious impacts on its findings, and, as Zombie points out, one of the most significant statistical figures in this election has gone largely unnoticed: Only 9% of sampled households now supply answers for pollsters.

The figure comes from a Pew Study on polling responsiveness:

It has become increasingly difficult to contact potential respondents and to persuade them to participate. The percentage of households in a sample that are successfully interviewed – the response rate – has fallen dramatically. At Pew Research, the response rate of a typical telephone survey was 36% in 1997 and is just 9% today.

The general decline in response rates is evident across nearly all types of surveys, in the United States and abroad. At the same time, greater effort and expense are required to achieve even the diminished response rates of today. These challenges have led many to question whether surveys are still providing accurate and unbiased information.

And response rates aren't the only figures declining in modern day polling.  According to Pew, pollsters' ability to reach voters and voters' willingness to participate in polls have also decreased dramatically over the last 15 years:

As much as we want to predict the election winner today, we have to take all poll results with a grain of salt.  As evidenced by the Pew data, the opinions of 91% of American households aren't being represented in polls on average.

Zombie adds:

There’s only one possible conclusion to reach: That the non-cooperating 86% of contactees are twice as likely to be Republicans and independents as they are to be Democrats.

This imputes a HUGE skew into all poll results, a skew that is rarely acknowledged.

Who are the 91%???

Are you one of them?

Did you miss a call from a pollster because you were at work?

Did you refuse to answer a question from a pollster, once contacted?

If so, why did you refuse?

Even if you don’t answer poll calls, do they record your non-response as support for Obama anyway?

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