Two of the most important trend lines in political campaign polling might be about to cross.
One is the rise of online polling. The other is the decline of telephone surveys because of rising costs and possibly declining quality, tied to the fact that fewer Americans are willing to participate in a telephone poll. Many public opinion researchers have thought that Internet polling would eventually overtake phone polling, but they hoped it would not happen before online polling was ready.
Ready or not, online polling has arrived. Political analysts and casual poll readers now face a deluge of data from new firms employing new, promising, but not always proven methodologies. Nowhere is the question of the accuracy of the new online polls more evident than in the survey results for Donald Trump. He fares better in online polls than in traditional polls, and it’s not clear which method is capturing the public’s true opinions.
According to the Pollster database of Republican primary polls, there have been nearly as many Internet surveys as there have been traditional, live-interview telephone surveys, 90 versus 96. By this time in 2011, opinion researchers had conducted just 26 online surveys and more than 100 live-interview polls.