HUFFPOLLSTER: Gallup Bows Out Of Primary Polling

Pollsters and pundits react to Gallup's decision to forgo primary horserace polling. Presidential poll results vary depending on how the pollsters ask about it. And two-fifths of Americans know someone who's been killed or committed suicide with a gun. This is HuffPollster for Friday, October 9, 2015

'GALLUP GIVES UP THE HORSERACE' - Steven Shepard: "Gallup has been the country's gold standard for horse-race election polling ever since its legendary founder, George Gallup, predicted Franklin Roosevelt's landslide reelection in 1936. But after a bruising 2012 cycle, in which its polls were farther off than most of its competitors, Gallup told POLITICO it isn't planning any polls for the presidential primary horse race this cycle. And, even following an internal probe into what went wrong last time around, Gallup won't commit to tracking the general election next year....Newport told POLITICO that Gallup has shifted its resources into understanding issues facing voters — and won’t be following the primary horse races, other than asking about how Americans feel about the individual candidates. 'We believe to put our time and money and brainpower into understanding the issues and priorities is where we can most have an impact,' he said." [Politico]

Still 'committed to helping Democracy' - More from Shepard: "[Gallup Editor in Chief Frank] Newport concedes that, by skipping the horse-race polls, observers won’t be able to judge Gallup’s surveys against an objective result: the election. 'That is certainly one of the advantages that an election provides, and that is an external standard,' he said. So why hasn’t Gallup weighed in on the state of a race that — judging by cable-television ratings and other metrics — has captivated a large segment of the country? 'We’re looking to see where we can make the best contribution to understanding the election,' Newport said. 'We’re committed to helping the democracy, if I may be so pretentious,' he added."

Pew too? - Steve Koczela, MassINC: "Pew Research Center also told Politico it would be cutting back on horse race polling. 'We’re not going to track the horse race in the same way we have in the past,' said Carroll Doherty, director of political research at Pew. 'There’s a lot of people doing that, and they do a good job.'Pew is another highly respected organization in the field of political polling whose absence will likewise be noted. But, like Gallup, the firm denies any connection with concerns about accuracy." [Commonwealth]

More from Frank Newport - The Washington Post's Scott Clement and Peyton Craighill published an email from Newport with a "fuller explanation" that Newport also sent to other pollsters via the listserv of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR): "In the 2012 cycle we invested a huge amount of time, money and interviewing in tracking the horse race on a nightly basis. Our question in this cycle: is this the best investment of resources to fulfill the mission of helping understand what is going on in a presidential election and hopefully helping make the nation better off as a result. Our thinking is that it is not; that tilting those resources more toward understanding where the public stands on the issues of the day, how they are reacting to the proposals put forth by the candidates, what it is they want the candidates to do, and what messages or images of the candidates are seeping into the public’s consciousness can make a more lasting contribution. This may not be the focus that gets the most 'clicks' or short-term headlines, but is one which hopefully can make a real difference. Again, this isn’t based on a lack of faith in the process or the value of horse race polling in general, but rather a focus on how our particular firm’s contribution to the process can be most effective in keeping the voice of the people injected into the democratic process." [WashPost]

Reactions from pollsters and pundits:

Charles Franklin, Marquette Law School Poll: “We all lose when serious organizations leave the field.” [@PollsAndVotes]

Harry Enten, FiveThirtyEight: "Gallup uses rigorous polling methodologies. It employs live interviewers; it calls a lot of cell phones; it calls back people who are harder to reach. More than that, it took the criticism it received after the 2012 election seriously, even bringing in outside help to figure out what went wrong. Gallup rates as solidly average in FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings in large part because of those techniques. It’s had two bad elections recently, but it’s never a good idea to judge a pollster on just a couple of election cycles; Gallup has also had good years. Polling consumers are far better off in a world of Gallup’s than in a world of Zogby Internet polls and fly-by-night surveys from pollsters we’ve never heard of. There is plenty of shadiness in the polling community, and Gallup seemed to be opening its doors." [538]

Jason Husser, Elon University Poll: “Gallup expressed many sad pollsters’ latent opinion that issues are too often bad media bets at the questionnaire racetrack…Issue focus is key for democracy mission of polls, but not valued enough in sound bite driven horse race media cycle…A bunch of small public polling shops would follow Gallup on issue focus if they had Gallup’s size and brand power” [@JasonHusser here here and here]

Michael McDonald, University of Florida - “Not much lost here. Magically Gallup’s pro-Romney numbers moved to tossup after their hiatus during [Hurricane] Sandy…If Gallup hasn’t fixed their model and sits out 2016, we’ll have one less consistently pro-R daily tracker framing the 2016 narrative.” [@ElectProject here and here]

Andrew Gelman, Columbia University: "Gallup is not a public utility. It was my impression that those horse-race polls were a loss leader to Gallup, a way for them to get their name in the newspaper and help sell the paid poll questions that make money for them. But if the publicity is negative, I can see why they might not want to do this anymore!" []

William Jordan, YouGov: “Problem here is accuracy in horserace is a key indicator of accuracy in non-horserace.” [@williamjordann]

Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling (D): "I think it’s a loss for the polling industry and I hope they’ll reconsider. I trust that the changes they made after 2012 were smart ones, and it would be nice to be able to quantify that." [via email]

Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly: "Make no mistake, Gallup’s withdrawal from this portion of the polling business...will be cited over and over by people disenchanted by what the remaining polls are telling them. If Gallup can’t get it right, who can? But I suspect for the most part people will keep buying burgers wherever they can find them." [Washington Monthly]

Drew Linzer, DailyKos: “Read Gallup news as further admission that traditional phone polling, even (especially) by established companies, is badly broken.” [@DrewLinzer]

Mark Mellman, Democratic pollster: "Conducting polls correctly is increasingly costly and if Gallup had just clearly said they weren't making enough money to justify the expense of doing it right, I would be sorry to see them leave the arena, but I would harbor no doubts about their business decision. I respect Gallup a great deal, but the fact they did not make a clear economic case leaves me suspicious. Elections are a test for pollsters and it feels like they are shying away from taking the test. And if the company says, in effect, "you can't trust our election numbers," why should anyone trust their other numbers? Now in fairness, they didn't say they were unreliable in any way, but given the recent history, uncertainty hangs in the air. Though I've publicly argued with Gallup off and on over many years, they have provided important, accurate and useful data on elections for generations. Their input this time around will be greatly missed." [via email]

Kristin Soltis Anderson, Republican pollster: "Every pollster under the sun will put out 2016 horse race numbers (high quality data or no) so I get why Gallup and Pew will take a pass…I wonder if bad FCC regulation (and the $12 million Gallup cell phone lawsuit settlement) played any role. [@KSoltisAnderson here and here]

Kevin Collins, Democratic data scientist: "If @Gallup doesn’t think it can accurately poll the presidential horse race, why should we trust its polling on other topics?" [@kwcollins]

Jim Messina, former Obama campaign manager: "Finally! This is like a ghost getting news that it's been dead for years." [@Messina2012 via WashPost]

Logan Dobson, former Republican pollster: “how long until analysts realize the fetish for polling averages leads to the averages being comprised of crap?” [@LoganDobson]

Richard Barney, Civis (D): "Nowadays you have to know who is answering your survey, who isn't, and what that means for the composition of your sample compared to the electorate. You can't do that with an RDD telephone survey. The best campaign pollsters have produced very accurate projections using methodology that incorporates registration-based sampling and advances in data science. Do those methods always produce the right result? No. They do; however, give us a lot more data to work with so when we miss it’s easier to know where, why, and what we can do about it. Hopefully Gallup’s announcement helps drive acceptance of the methods campaigns have been using for some time and opens the door to other methodological innovations." [via email]

Ted Carroll, Rasmussen Reports: "What’s a horse race if they don’t Gallup?" [@mediainvestors]

POLLSTERS RELUCTANT TO WINNOW FIELD - Steven Shepard: "Pollsters surveyed by POLITICO have a unanimous warning for the Republican National Committee and the TV networks who are using public-opinion surveys to exclude presidential candidates from debates: Don’t trust polls to detect often-tiny grades of opinion in a giant field. Indeed, the unprecedented reliance on polls to winnow the Republican field is coming at a time when many pollsters feel they’re blinder than ever to trends in public thinking — and that using polls to keep out candidates who are otherwise well qualified could seriously alter the race. 'Polls are being used to do a job that they’re really not intended for — and they’re not as qualified for as they used to be,' said Cliff Zukin, a professor at Rutgers University and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research." [Politico]

LIVE INTERVIEWERS MATTER FOR TRUMP VOTE, NOT OTHERS - HuffPost Senior Data Scientist Natalie Jackson: "Support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is declining. How much it's declining depends on which polls you read and, maybe, on how those polls were conducted. In theory, the ways that surveys are run can produce systematic differences in the results they get. In practice, Pew Research has shown this to be true. Last month, Democratic analyst Jonathan Robinson identified such a difference in Trump's numbers, which raised speculation about how polling methods might be influencing the primary contest. Since Trump's numbers showed a clear pattern, HuffPost Pollster decided to take a closer look at the national horserace polling for all of the 2016 presidential candidates. We found that the differences by type of poll were far from systematic. They were actually all over the place." [HuffPost]

IMPACT OF GUN VIOLENCE IS WIDELY FELT - HuffPollster: "Forty percent of Americans know someone who was fatally shot or who committed suicide using a gun, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows...Twenty-two percent of American adults say they personally know someone who was killed by another person with a gun, with 6 percent saying the victim was someone in their family. Twenty-nine percent of American adults, meanwhile, know someone who used a gun to commit suicide, including 7 percent who said a family member had committed suicide that way….Forty-seven percent of black Americans say they know someone who was fatally shot by another person, and 19 percent have lost a family member. In comparison, just 18 percent of white Americans said they know a victim of gun violence, and just 3 percent have lost someone in their family." [HuffPost]


The more Americans know about Congress, the less they like it. [Gallup]

-National Journal's Heartland Monitor finds Americans optimistic about technology and diversity, but less enthused by other trends. [National Journal]

-Fusion's inaugural poll of millennials finds many open to more liberal immigration policies. [Fusion]

-If forced to choose, Democrats pick Joe Biden over Bernie Sanders. [YouGov]

-Nearly two thirds of California voters favor the state's new assisted suicide law. [Field]

-More than a third of the nation believes gun violence in the U.S. is a fact of life. [HuffPost]

-Quinnipiac finds Joe Biden and Ben Carson on the rise, but not at the top, in three swing states. [Quinnipiac]

HUFFPOLLSTER VIA EMAIL! - You can receive this weekly update every Friday morning via email! Just click here. Enter your email address, and click "sign up." That's all there is to it (and you can unsubscribe anytime).

THIS WEEK'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Harry Enten offers a caution to Joe Biden: late arriving candidates tend to peak early. [538]

-Nate Cohn explains why Marco Rubio's chances are rising. [NYT]

-Alex Altman considers whether the political betting market is open to “insider trading.” [Time]

-The Los Angeles Times explains why it’s experimenting with online polling. [LATimes]

-Civis (D) rolls out a new system to target television advertising purchases; a Republican competitor is not impressed. [Wired, @alexlundry]

-Charlie Cook predicts an uphill battle for Republican senators elected during the 2010 midterms. [National Journal]

-Mark Penn’s private equity firm, the Stagwell Group, acquired the Democratic public relations firm, SKDKnickerbocker. [NYT]

-RTI’s SurveyPost blog wraps up a four year run. [RTI]

-Ipsos joins AAPOR's Transparency Initiative. [Ipsos]

-Emily Swanson finds history’s most curmudgeonly poll question. [@EL_Swan]

-Amy Walter analyzes the demographics of the gun control debate. [Cook]

-John Holbein discusses a study that finds early education programs can boost voter turnout. [WashPost]

Popular in the Community


What's Hot