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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Releases Election Polling Resources for 2016 Elections

CHICAGO, IL (January 29, 2016) - With this year’s unusually contentious presidential race comes an unusually loud chorus of criticism about the accuracy and impact of election polling.  New polling techniques and unfamiliar terms — “herding,” “non-probability sampling,” “aggregators” — only add to the confusion of the poll-watching public and increase skepticism about the current state of the profession.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the leading professional association of public opinion researchers, is poised to meet these challenges with reliable information drawn from scholarly research and from the expertise of the country’s leading survey practitioners.
AAPOR has assembled a library of objective, fact-based election briefs on the latest polling topics written by some of the foremost polling authorities. These short, reader-friendly summaries are meant to clarify and demystify critical election topics such as sample selection, identifying likely voters, the use of “credibility intervals,” how to identify a push poll, and what is “herding.”  Check them out here.

AAPOR President Mollyann Brodie (Senior VP, Public Opinion and Survey Research, Kaiser Family Foundation) is leading this educational outreach effort. She already has spoken to dozens of major media outlets on topics, including the use of polls to determine candidates in presidential debates, why even the best polls sometimes differ and the impact of declining survey response rates. Brodie also has assembled a group of experts, including leading academics and private pollsters, who are available to quickly answer media questions about polling.

An important part of this effort is to tell an old story again…and again. Despite headline-grabbing claims to the contrary, studies continue to show that the average error rate in candidate preference polls by the leading survey organizations was less than 3 percentage points in 2014. Here’s the real headline: The accuracy of election surveys has been virtually unchanged over the past 20 years.

Some polls will likely fail. The proliferation of pre-election polls using a wide variety of methodologies, some less rigorous than others, makes it expected that a few high-profile mistakes will occur. We urge the media and the public to not lose focus on the usefulness of pre-election polling and to ask questions about methodology when they disseminate and consider poll data. Because methodology matters but is often not understood, AAPOR has created an election resources page on its website. These resources can help journalists, the general public, and other decision makers understand how to evaluate polls and, more broadly, appreciate the considerable strengths but real limitations of public opinion polling. AAPOR leads the industry in encouraging public pollsters to be fully transparent in their methods and highlighting the work of those who are. Read about AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative. See the list of TI charter members here.

In this deeply polarized election climate AAPOR remains committed to being the primary source of objective information on all facets of the polling profession and expert commentary on the practice of public opinion research.
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The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) is the leading professional organization of public opinion and survey research professionals in the U.S., with members from academia, media, government, the non-profit sector and private industry. AAPOR members embrace the principle that public opinion research is essential to a healthy democracy, providing information crucial to informed policymaking and giving voice to the nation's beliefs, attitudes and desires. It promotes a better public understanding of this role, as well as the sound and ethical conduct and use of public opinion research. www.aapor.org