Layered onto this fundamental lack of deep voter interest are the logistical difficulties in modern political polling. More and more Americans do not have home landlines anymore, only cell phones. And those numbers, by law, must be manually dialed, driving up costs. The majority of Americans, regardless of what type of phone they have, do not answer incoming numbers they don’t recognize. These factors produce a response rate in surveys of 8 percent, compared to 80 percent or so a few decades ago.
And then there are the sample sizes, often so small that the margins of error are larger than the spreads among a host of candidates. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released this weekend had Trump leading nationally with 32 percent, Carson in second at 22 percent, and then 10 candidates ranging from Sen. Marco Rubio at 11 percent down to Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Sen. Rick Santorum at 1 percent.
But because the sample size of 423 Republican respondents produces a 5.5-point margin of error, those 10 candidates from Rubio to Santorum were statistically tied.
John Dick, founder of the polling and research firm Civic Science, said such dependence on obviously imprecise surveys is actually doing voters a disservice. “It is categorically irresponsible, in my opinion,” Dick said.