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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR's Statement on 2012 Presidential Election Polling

DEERFIELD, Ill. — November 12, 2012 — During the past two months, journalists, partisans on many sides, and the public at large have focused a great deal of attention on the accuracy of the presidential pre-election polls.  At times considerable criticism was directed toward pollsters and their polling methods.

However, as was seen last Wednesday morning, the vast majority of the major pollsters were highly accurate in their final estimates for the presidential election, both at the national and state levels. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) would like to take this occasion to compliment pollsters who used established, objective scientific methods to conduct their polls, rather than subjective judgments about the electorate to make their forecasts.

“AAPOR is very pleased that the survey research profession has worked to respond to the increasing challenges facing public opinion polling by drawing on the best available scientific evidence, whether it is from scholars, government researchers, or political polling practitioners themselves,” said Paul J. Lavrakas, Ph.D., AAPOR’s current president.

Despite myriad challenges including the growing cell phone population, increasingly high levels of non-response, and even the effects of unanticipated events such as Hurricane Sandy, the final estimates of the 2012 election outcomes demonstrated that when pollsters remain committed to objective scientific methods, their pre-election polls are very likely to be an accurate forecast of the voting public’s behavior. 

“As importantly, to the extent that polls also are accurate in characterizing the attitudes, beliefs, and motivations of the electorate, we believe that pollsters, and the news media that use their poll findings, provide a great service to democracy by placing the opinions and preferences of the public in the forefront of the electoral process,” observed Lavrakas.