Polling marginally effective in elections

By Terrell Starr

If you’ve been paying attention to the presidential race, it’s likely you’ve run across a poll. Politicians often use them to size up their rivals, but how reliable are they?

Brian Gaines is an associate professor of political science at the University. He said polling can be useful, but the method does have its weaknesses.

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    “Let’s say Obama is up on Clinton by six points, plus or minus three, he might be up by as little as three and in fact there’s only about a 95 out of a 100 percent chance that that’s right and the poll might be dead wrong,” Gaines said. “He might be behind.”

    While polling is common in national campaigning, Gaines said it’s used less often at the local and state level. Michael Frerichs is an Illinois State Senator. He said he knows of fellow senators who use polling, but he prefers to campaign the old fashion way.

    “I don’t hire any polling firms because I go out and knock on a lot of doors” Frerichs said. “I attend numerous events in for community. People come up and talk to me and thats how I get a since of what issues are important in my community and who they’re supporting.”

    Frerichs also says the larger your district, the more helpful polling may be.

    The most commonly used polling firms include the Gallop Poll and Rasmussen.