Should Americans Rely On Polls to Predict Presidential Nomination?

By Clarence Walker NewsBlaze Political Commentary Writer

.”..Making Decisions Based On Collective Ignorance Of the Population.”

If anyone tallies up the National Presidential Polls they will automatically predict leading candidate Donald Trump as the next 2016 Republican Nominee for United States President. On the Democratic side, voters would choose Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who are tied for the next nominee for president.

Why?

Because for decades, Americans have been guided by extensive news media coverage to decide a nominee for president, in which the information is furnished by national pollsters and survey companies.

Skepticism of Poll Accuracy

republican debate
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz spar at a debate.

Candidates running for president and political experts voice skeptical views about the accuracy of presidential polls.

“The notion that a poll will tell you what’s going to happen in 2016 – is ludicrous,” said Peter Brown, in an NPR article. Brown serves as Assistant Director for the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“You guys should know by now the Monmouth University Poll was created just to aggravate me,” current presidential candidate Chris Christie told the Washington Post recently about a New Jersey-based poll that pegged Christie at 2 percent support.

“Polls are not very useful except for telling you about tiers of candidates,” says Clifford Zukin, professor of Public Policy at Rutgers University. “They really tell you that Trump has more support than Christie and Rand Paul,” the professor said in an NPR interview.

With more and more negative publicity focused on how unreliable national presidential polls are, the responses trigger an overriding question. Can the American people trust polls conducted before elections are held?

Still though, Americans, for the most part, are captivated by polls, and frequently, as stated already, people are influenced by the news media to base their opinions/views about the world we live in. Polls are an outlet for people’s voices to be heard. Candidates running for political seats are typical subjects of early polling. And this is where the numbers come in. Early polling of the U.S. population by research organizations are based on citizens’ approval rating of a particular candidate whereby each answer given about a candidate calculates a percentage number for a candidate.

Before we get too “high” on presidential candidates’ approval ratings, National Studies show that presidential polls are fraught with questionable predictions, including multiple inaccuracies, thus making it difficult to provide a reliable assessment to predict a nominee for president.

When candidates are leading in the polls, don’t be misled into believing the leader should always win. History bears this out in prior presidential races. For example, in four of the five previous presidential elections, 13 days away from the Iowa caucuses the candidates with comfortable leads in the national polls failed to capture the nomination. And in three of the five races, the polls weren’t predictive of the winner in Iowa.

The Focus of This Article

To be fair and objective, the focus of this article is not to report that all National Polls and surveys are totally inaccurate and corrupt to the core with biases. Some polls get percentage numbers more accurate by using correct, unbiased methods. What this article focuses on is how presidential polls have inaccurately influenced the American people to believe that a leading presidential candidate like Donald Trump, with 41% going into the Iowa caucuses is liable to win the nomination.

Trump, the Billionaire developer, may or may not garner enough votes in Iowa and New Hampshire to remain in first place among other candidates to secure the nomination. But if you look at the polls and listen to media pundits, Donald Trump will not only win the nomination, but as well become the nation’s 45th president although history proves how misleading early presidential polls have been.

For example, remember the epic Democratic nomination battle in 2008 between then-Senator Barack Obama and powerhouse player Hillary Clinton? In this hotly contested race for the almighty White House, Clinton was on verge of crushing Obama, with 27 percent, while Obama had a much smaller percentage. But Clinton’s commanding lead didn’t stop Obama from gaining steam further down the road to eventually win the nomination, and become the 44th president.

Also in 2008, on the Republican side, several national polls had former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in first and second places, with Giuliani at 23%, Huckabee at 22%, and Arizona Congressman John McCain had only 12% of votes. Yet those commanding leads by Giulani and Huckabee fizzled while McCain, trailing far behind both opponents, bounced back to win the nomination, and faced Obama for the White House crown. But then McCain lost to Obama.

Errors in Polls

Here is a rundown of how polls are conducted:

  • Out of millions of citizens in the U.S., pollsters conducting surveys will interview as little as “four or five” hundred people, and in some cases, up to 2 or 3 thousand individuals. A reasonable argument can be made that – out of millions of voters, this is nowhere close to a fair representation of the population.
  • Since most pollsters only question a small number of people, this creates inherent problems because if the pollsters questioned at least 1 million people instead of a few thousand, they would get much different answers and opinions from a million respondents.
  • With millions of cell phone users in the U.S., the number of people who answer common landline phones has significantly declined, even though many landline phones remain in existence. Reputable pollsters take pride in calling as many cell phones as possible. On the flip side, a Pew Research study showed in 2012, that only approximately 9 percent of individuals that the pollsters attempted to call actually responded to questions.
  • Some Information Suppressed

    Another study shows that while 84 percent of Americans conduct business online, a lesser percentage take the time to sign up with a political survey organization to respond to questionnaires.

  • News media reports don’t reveal additional details of how polled information is gathered or exactly how a particular survey was taken from citizens.
  • TV viewers and news readers who keep up with polls usually accept poll results as fact; when more factors should be included.
  • Web polls exclude people without web access, including those who may not visit a site with questionnaires.
  • TV Polls

    CNN Cable News has more liberal viewers while Fox Cable News airs mostly content for conservative viewers. Therefore both cable news networks may be skewed toward liberal or conservative viewers, irrespective of political issues that Americans care about the most. Taken together, in this vacuum, the likelihood for error or bias is obvious.

    What Can We Learn From National Presidential Polls?

    What we need to know is that when polls are conducted well in advance of a final election – the results don’t always accurately predict outcome, particularly a presidential race. Overall, on the brighter side, National polls can deliver useful information that provides insight into how the public thinks at a moment in time.

    Bottom Line

    During general elections, with at least four or five months to go, National polls are more predictable, but during primaries when caucus voting starts in February 2016, outcomes are less predictable.

    With almost a dozen 2016 GOP candidates locked in a heated battle for votes, while front-runner Donald Trump has a whopping 41% approval rating, and with Senator Ted Cruz nipping at Trump’s heels, the winner may be a toss up, despite Trump’s 20 percent lead over Cruz.

    A reliable, professional, competent survey specialist must question larger numbers of people to ensure statistical accuracy that fairly represents the population.

    A Typical Polling Failure

    Indicative of how unreliable polls can be, experts insisted in 1992, that presidential candidate Bill Clinton would win Iowa and New Hampshire. The irony was that Clinton lost both must-win states and still became president.

    Meanwhile Iowa caucus voting begins Monday, February 1st, 2016 – to start the process to find a presidential nominee.

    So who do you pick to become the next president of the United States?

    For more information on national polls that provide a breakdown of previous presidential primaries dating back to 2000, read this Time Magazine article.

    As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.

    Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker’s work can be found at American Mafia.com, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.

    Six of Walker’s crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?

    Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the “Cold Case Murder Series” hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.

    At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.

    Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]