Polling Takeaways

Nate Cohn’s only real competition for numbers-cruncher wunderkind (since Nate Silver’s now a grizzled veteran!) is The Guardian‘s Harry Enten. So I’m all ears when Harry offers five lessons on polling from the 2012 campaign, each with a big caveat. The most useful is his first: given the obvious difficulty pollsters are having in constructing accurate Likely Voter screens (Gallup’s enduring problem), perhaps in future we should just pay attention to polls of registered voters, so that poll consumers are in a position to make apples-to-apples comparisons instead of wondering if the LV screens are too tight or reflect outright bias.

Enten goes on to suggest that ignoring cellphone voters is no longer acceptable (though PPP has effectively compensated for the problem by adjusting for the expected electorate); Internet polling is beginning to become credible (unless you’re Zogby!); internal polls should be ignored (unless the pollster is Mark Mellman!); and state polls are usually more accurate than national polls (though they weren’t particularly good this year in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada or Virginia).

So there’s enough ambiguity in his findings that Enten and others won’t have to worry about putting themselves out of work before the next cycle.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.