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Monday, February 04, 2008

Can we ever trust polls again?

UC poli sci professor George Bishop had an op-ed column in Sunday's Washington Post:

C an we ever trust the polls again?

It was the question on all minds after the pollsters' stunning miscall of the New Hampshire Democratic primary last month. The oh-so-wrong predictions that Sen. Barack Obama would beat out Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Granite State suddenly made the whole polling enterprise seem a bit shaky. What's worse, the pollsters have had a bumpy ride all through this primary season, miscalculating margins and magnitudes of wins in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina.

Does it matter? Well, yes, because we all rely on polls as one of our best sources of information about the actions, opinions and motives of the American electorate. But if the polls are getting things so wrong lately, then we have to wonder whether they're right about things other than the horse race -- about Americans' preferences and positions on policy issues that make a difference in how the country is run.

Read the full column here


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