Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't always believe the polling data

I try not to become too overwhelmed when it comes to polls. Granted, like many other political pundits out there, when I see a poll that works in my favor, I tend to play it up. When I see a poll that doesn’t, I’ll be the first to admit, I try to see if there’s any reasoning behind why that poll is flawed.

However, I don’t do it too publicly; rarely will you see me make any comments towards polls unless they are really out of touch with what America really believes in, or in how they’ve conducted themselves.

This is one such occasion where I take issue with a polling company. Rasmussen, who does a daily presidential poll, claims today that President Barack Obama has a net approval rating of negative eight percentage points, meaning that more Americans strongly disapprove of his job performance than strongly approve.

Take a look again at how that was calculated: Rasmussen subtracts how many Americans strongly disapprove from how many strongly approve. The formula totally ignores all those who “somewhat” approve and disapprove.

If you were to take a look at their polls using a formula in that way (adding in those who somewhat approve and those that somewhat disapprove), Obama would come out on top with a net approval of three percentage points for the day, meaning more Americans approve of his performance (at least somewhat) than disapprove.

The Rasmussen poll is one example of how polling results can be altered in order to push a political point forward that isn’t really indicative of the public’s true opinions. On a daily basis, Rasmussen will report how Obama is netting a negative approval rating; yet, their own polling data shows this isn't the case.

Additionally, Rasmussen itself was founded by a gentleman who was a consultant for George W. Bush during the 2004 presidential campaign; and while this shouldn’t, on its own, be cause for concern, when it is coupled with the fact that other polls show a much higher approval for Obama, it should make one wonder whether or not Rasmussen polls can be trusted these days.

Previously, Rasmussen had held the title of being one of the most accurate polling companies in the nation. Today, due to the nature of their presidential tracking poll reports, that title is in serious doubt.

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