Holidays might affect reliability of polls

posted at 1:05 pm on December 28, 2011 by Tina Korbe

All polls have to be taken with a grain of salt, but some experts suggest this time of year — between Christmas and New Year’s — is the worst time of the year to conduct a poll. Response rates — predictably — are typically lower, increasing the challenge of accurately capturing public opinion. Other pollsters argue cell phone samples and fixed opinions about the impending caucus diminish the confounding effect of the time of year. The New York Times reports:

“I don’t think it is a solid rule of polling,” said Cliff Zukin, a professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers. “But it sure was conventional wisdom. Obviously fewer people are home and they have less time and inclination to talk during the holidays.” …

“We’ve often polled through the holiday period,” said Scott Keeter, the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. “We do have a concern that some people may not be accessible during that time because of travel, but that may be diminishing as a concern because of the routine use of cell phone samples now.”

Dr. Zukin has less concern about polls in Iowa and New Hampshire than national polls. “Folks there are more likely to have firmly based opinions, what with all the attention and thus a more knowledgeable public. I suspect the more firmly based the opinions, the less one worries about the methodology adding its own voice to the mix,” he said.

Zukin’s theory about Iowa doesn’t strike me as particularly sound, given the conventional volatility of opinion in the state and the general state of indecision that has presided there this primary season. Bottom line: Don’t take any poll results you read this week too seriously.


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Would explain the Ron Paul surge.

Loner bomb shelter denizens really like him and they tend to be home alone on the holidays (like every other day).

NoDonkey on December 28, 2011 at 1:08 PM

I wonder if the politicians would rather have the first primaries in Florida or Arizona…

Some place were it’s warm at least.

Chip on December 28, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Don’t take any poll results you read this week too seriously.

I don’t take to many polls serious any time of the year, first I look at who is doing the polling, then I look at the questions asked, then I shake my head in disgust.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:09 PM

Would explain the Ron Paul surge.

Loner bomb shelter denizens really like him and they tend to be home alone on the holidays (like every other day).

NoDonkey on December 28, 2011 at 1:08 PM

Na, a more rational and logical explanation for the supposed Ron Paul surge is that the Ronulians learned how to game polls other than online polls by researching what Obama did to get the Democrat nomination in 08, and they are replicating to the best of their ability what Obama did.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:12 PM

This primary season more than ever polling has been just an excuse for the legacy media to tell the story they want to tell rather than engage in actual reporting. This NYT blogger might want to be careful. She’s almost giving away tricks of the trade.

tryanmax on December 28, 2011 at 1:12 PM

How have the polls fared historically during the holidays… We’re they off the last election cycle going into Iowa?

TBBT on December 28, 2011 at 1:14 PM

…they are replicating to the best of their ability what Obama did.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Amen to that. Paul is just a libertarian blank slate the same way 0bama was a socialist blank slate. Sadly, I have a few friends and family members in the rEVOLution. I feel like starting a support group.

tryanmax on December 28, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Strong adult beverages or drugs may effect them even more. That’s the only way we can tolerate this crowd of losers.

they lie on December 28, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Sadly, I have a few friends and family members in the rEVOLution. I feel like starting a support group.

tryanmax on December 28, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Wow, my most profound condolences to you, finding out you have Ronulians in your family ranks right up there with finding out you have terminal cancer. There isn’t anything you can do about it and it isn’t going to end well.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:22 PM

So the kooks are at home in the basement preparing to Spray Vinegar to stop the Chemtrails and save the world which gives them time to answer a polling question for Paul.

Normal people are traveling and living their lives.

Sounds about right.

jp on December 28, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Na, a more rational and logical explanation for the supposed Ron Paul surge is that the Ronulians learned how to game polls other than online polls by researching what Obama did to get the Democrat nomination in 08, and they are replicating to the best of their ability what Obama did.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:12 PM

What Obama did, for those of you who can’t read the newspapers, was get himself elected POTUS.

JohnGalt23 on December 28, 2011 at 1:23 PM

It’s Iowa…why do you think, we are always “surprised” at the results!

KOOLAID2 on December 28, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Bottom line: Don’t take any poll results you read this week too seriously.

don’t tell that to the lsm with their once in a blue moon praise of gallup’s poll for dear leader

cmsinaz on December 28, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Zukin’s theory about Iowa doesn’t strike me as particularly sound, given the conventional volatility of opinion in the state and the general state of indecision that has presided there this primary season.

I think Huckabee’s observation would actually have more merit to it, especially if the Upper Midwest continues to enjoy some nice temps/little snow through next week.

whatcat on December 28, 2011 at 1:30 PM

All polls have to be taken with a grain of salt,

Make that a Salt Lick Block. People have to answer the poll questions. I believe most people, beside the Paulnuts that sit by the phone in the closet, don’t have the time.

Kini on December 28, 2011 at 1:31 PM

What Obama did, for those of you who can’t read the newspapers, was get himself elected POTUS.

JohnGalt23 on December 28, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Well, after he used outright fraud to get the democrat nomination the Democrat Party got him elected, something the Ronulians can’t quite seem to grasp. Ron Paul doesn’t have the lock-step Democrat Party faithful to carry him across the finish line. All Ron Paul has is a quarter million or so fanatical followers who would barbeque their parent’s alive for a single pat on the head from Dr. Paul.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Hmmmm, selective polling? Just how random is the polling?

Kini on December 28, 2011 at 1:33 PM

How have the polls fared historically during the holidays… We’re they off the last election cycle going into Iowa?

TBBT on December 28, 2011 at 1:14 PM

If you take a look at the 2008 RCP Iowa poll average leading up to the primary, the poll average was a fairly accurate predictor of the final vote results.

Today, Ron Paul is up by 1.7. I’m no Ron Paul supporter to be sure. But the numbers are the numbers.

SlaveDog on December 28, 2011 at 1:34 PM

SlaveDog on December 28, 2011 at 1:34 PM

Dem pollsters are playing games with internal weighting. Over half of Paul’s support in PPP is from Non-Republicans. So for that support to hold all these Progressives that love Paul will have to register Republican to Caucus for him in Iowa.

Iowa only has 40 Delegates

jp on December 28, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Well, after he used outright fraud to get the democrat nomination the Democrat Party got him elected, something the Ronulians can’t quite seem to grasp. Ron Paul doesn’t have the lock-step Democrat Party faithful to carry him across the finish line. All Ron Paul has is a quarter million or so fanatical followers who would barbeque their parent’s alive for a single pat on the head from Dr. Paul.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Are you whining?!?!

There’s no whining in politics!!

JohnGalt23 on December 28, 2011 at 1:40 PM

I just have a sickening feeling that it is between Mitt and Uncle Crackers. Iowans need to take one for the team and go with the coot, otherwise this thing is pretty much done.

Southernblogger on December 28, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Are you whining?!?!

There’s no whining in politics!!

JohnGalt23 on December 28, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Whining? I’m laughing my ass off at all the Ron “Yes I gave myself a chemically induced lobotomy” Paul supporters.

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 1:45 PM

OF COURSE!

We have the explanation of the Ron Paul surge.

Who is more likely to be at home during the holidays? The conservative, family-oriented voter or the brooding libertarian, sitting in his basement reading his Ayn Rand?

makattak on December 28, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Since when is Nate Silver some kind of svengali, BTW?

Red Cloud on December 28, 2011 at 1:50 PM

OF COURSE!

We have the explanation of the Ron Paul surge.

Who is more likely to be at home during the holidays? The conservative, family-oriented voter or the brooding libertarian, sitting in his basement reading his Ayn Rand?

makattak on December 28, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Hey, don’t be trashing Ayn Rand, she had some good ideas despite being a non-believer.

I’m willing to wager that a fair number of the alleged Ron Paul support is from Socialists in the National Democratic Party who don’t cotton to democracy and want to mess up our primary.

Chip on December 28, 2011 at 2:10 PM

who cares?

Pragmatic on December 28, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Hey fools who think they are clever by saying “This explains all those Ron Paul wins, derp!” (obviously referring to the string of Ron Paul victories last week):

All polls have to be taken with a grain of salt, but some experts suggest this time of year — between Christmas and New Year’s — is the worst time of the year to conduct a poll. Response rates — predictably — are typically lower, increasing the challenge of accurately capturing public opinion.

some experts suggest this time of year — between Christmas and New Year’s — is the worst time of the year to conduct a poll

between Christmas and New Year’s

Daikokuco on December 28, 2011 at 2:12 PM

sitting in his basement reading his Ayn Rand?

makattak on December 28, 2011 at 1:46 PM

ROTFLMAO… So reading Ayn Rand is now a Ronulian euphemism for smoking pot out of a potato and downloading porn….

SWalker on December 28, 2011 at 2:14 PM

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/22/in-iowa-conservative-republicans-have-overachieved-polls/

Another clue the polls might be deceiving us. Romney fits the bill for a candidate who will poll better in Iowa than he will actually perform.

vegconservative on December 28, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Holidays might affect reliability of polls

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul hardest hit.

Johnny Alamo on December 28, 2011 at 2:30 PM

I’ve been hoping this is the explanation for Obama rising to 47% approval. And the fact that those who are answering polls are in a generally more positive mood over the holidays.

wordmum on December 28, 2011 at 2:48 PM

“There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.”

Ayn Rand

MichaelGabriel on December 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM

“There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.”

Ayn Rand

Half of you will think that quote is in support of Paulists. Half of you will think that quote is a put-down of Paulists.

The other half of you will sit there confused….

MichaelGabriel on December 28, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Bottom line: Don’t take any poll results you read this week too seriously.

Why just this week, the Senate is now an EASY grab for the GOP and I thought the House and the Presidency were going democrat for SURE due to last weeks payroll tax snafu…and obama’s poll numbers were headed WAY up.
It’s hard to keep up with the poll sniffers taking EVERY poll EXTREMELY seriously!

winston on December 28, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Bottom line: Don’t take any poll results you read this week too seriously.

Real Talk. I’m calling for a James E. O’Keefe style investigation into all these pollsters and polls used by FOX news “capturing public opinion” during the Republican primaries. The Hype train gets derailed.

apocalypse on December 29, 2011 at 3:06 PM