web analytics

The failing polls..

Written By: - Date published: 4:58 pm, October 16th, 2010 - 12 comments
Categories: community democracy, democratic participation, election 2011, labour, polls, telecommunications, vote smart - Tags:

An article in The Economist looks at the failing basis of polling techniques in the USA. It isn’t that much different to the circumstances here.

THEY are used to determine spending on political campaigns, to guide tactical voting and to enthuse or cow voters. News outlets, bloggers and activists cannot get enough of them. Candidates live and die by them. But even pollsters are worried that many of the political polls in individual races unveiled in the run-up to the mid-term elections in November may be inaccurate. “We’re in a dark age for polling,” says Jay Leve, boss of SurveyUSA, a polling firm. “It’s a very uncertain time.”

The immediate problem is the rapid growth in the number of people who have only a mobile phone, and are thus excluded from surveys conducted by landline. About a quarter of Americans are now “cellphone-onlys” (CPOs) in the industry jargon, and this poses both practical and statistical difficulties. They are less likely to answer their phones, and less likely to participate in a survey when they do, says Frank Newport of Gallup, another polling firm. They often retain their telephone numbers, including the area code, when they move from state to state, so it is hard to know where they are. And it costs more to call a mobile phone in the first place.

This is exactly the same problem that is steadily undermining the statistical validity of polls in NZ.  I’ve been involved in doing the numbers and canvassing in Labour for decades, and we see exactly the same issues. The significant difference here is that we are probably a lot further along. As well as the CPO’s we also have an awfully large number of urban centre people whose land-line is unlisted. This is largely the inevitable result of telemarketing – which was why I unlisted my phone number almost 20 years ago.

Pollsters can always “rinse” their data to try to correct such flaws. As Mr Newport of Gallup points out, most firms produced reasonably accurate findings ahead of this year’s primaries. It helps that the sort of people who do not have landlines are also the sort who tend to turn out in relatively low numbers in mid-term elections, notes Scott Keeter of the Pew Centre.

Which isn’t going to last. The CPO’s tend to vote more as they get older. In NZ the percentage of people with listed land-lines is currently pretty static in the over 45’s and starts falling away dramatically in people who are younger to very small percentages in the 20-25 age group. The actual profile is different in different areas. But when I first noticed it over 15 years ago the tipping point was in people in the 30-35 age group.

In the central Auckland electorates the number of households with listed phone numbers is now typically less than 60% and falling rapidly, whereas those in rural or more technically conservative areas can be over 80% but falling slowly.

Furthermore with the advent of caller id onto most phones, you get technophiles like me using it to screen calls. I don’t pick up if I don’t know who the caller is. They can leave a message because they’re probably not important to me.

If I’m doing anything like coding, moderating, or writing a post – I won’t answer even if I know who it is (unless it is family). Anyone that actually knows me also knows that they should e-mail or txt – it is far less disruptive to my work flow and limited leisure time. I hate having to disrupt my concentration. Of course I’m probably somewhat extreme and living around the bleeding edge. But other people are starting to head the same way…

But even if fears of a systematic bias prove unfounded, the fuss about CPOs points to a broader problem for pollsters: the ever-increasing difficulty of persuading Americans to take part in political polls. The proportion of those called who end up taking part in a survey has fallen steadily, from 35% or so in the 1990s to 15% or less now, according to Mr Keeter. Reaching young people is especially difficult. Only old ladies answer the phone, complains Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.

Of course this isn’t just a problem for the pollsters.

It is also an issue for political parties canvassing to get a feel for voters in particular areas. Canvassing is a good tool for both getting to know the details of your electorate, and for convincing people to get out to vote. Typically you not only activate the person you talk to, but also those to whom they talk about it.

When campaigners of the left are doing their planning in the next few months they need to think about the limits for different canvassing strategies. Phone canvassing is a relatively cheap and effective tool because it allows wider coverage across our rather large electorates of fifty thousand potential voters. But we also need to seek out the pockets of people who are not on a listed land-line.

12 comments on “The failing polls.. ”

  1. M 1

    Canvassing might have to start up in shopping malls to get a true picture of polling trends if CPOs are the way of the future, although I think that many of the younger set are toally apolitical and will only start to make choices when things start to bite them hard – nothing like a bit of discomfort to galvanise opinion and action.

    • lprent 1.1

      It is one of those strange recurring trends in my observation. Every generation in history tends to be apolitical until they start having kids of their own.

      But it isn’t just me. You find the same observation throughout history. I’d look some up, but I’m being repeatably urged to cook dinner (Damnit!!).

    • annaliviaplurabella 1.2

      The shopping malls are the new High Street: with one major differance; they are privately owned by two Australian Companies.
      AMP and Westfield control our high Streets and will not allow canvassing in malls.
      We have done “walk throughs” in Lynn Mall but get hassle from security and management when if we hang around to canvas.

  2. Mac1 2

    My brother has a different technique to deal with invasive polling. He lies through his teeth to the interviewer.

    I was once polled by the local National party. They first asked me whether I knew the name of the departing National MP. I answered correctly.

    The interviewer then asked whether I knew the name of the new National candidate.

    When I asked whether she had already forgotten the name of that illustrious worthy, the interviewer suddenly realised she was in fact talking to the Labour candidate.

  3. The big problem with polling is that it tends to become self fulfilling. And current trends tend to count out the younger and poorer, thereby emphasising the support for the parties supporting the wealthy, that is National and Act.

    In 2008 much of the malaise for Labour was created by the polling suggesting that Labour could not win. Eventually it became true.

    In 2005 the last Colmar Brunton before election day suggested National would win by 6 points, Labour won by 2.

    And the Auckland mayoral polls were pretty screwy. I thought that they were a consequence of odd questions and strange datasets but the answer could be they did not poll those who supported Len in spades, that is the poor and young.

  4. Mac1 4

    Another factor is the type of political polling. I have been polled locally by both major parties and by national organisations as well. One such was a commercial organisation who sent a booklet which had a raft of good political questions followed by another ten minutes of commercial stuff, which was really annoying in terms of time and interest.

    I realised that all I was mostly doing was helping land agents, car salesmen and large retailers to more accurately target me and my ilk as a consumer, so I sent back the form uncompleted, saying why. I wonder how many more poll results are skewed in a similar way.

    Vox pops in the paper also annoy me for their selectiveness. That is, until the last week, when eleven out of twelve interviewees, in two separate papers, condemned Paul Henry’s comments as racist. I was especially pleased with two young male high school students who were very clear in their views and understanding.

  5. Lew 5

    Good post, Lynn, but talk about burying the lead, which is:Landline-only polling in the US favours the Republican party by about five points compared to a mixed landline/cell sample. In a two-horse middleground race, that’s a simply massive distortion.

    L

    • lprent 5.1

      I thought about it and wrote paragraphs on it. But it got in the way of the basic demographic pattern on age, and is more a consequence of conservatism vs early adopters.There is a strong correlation in nz between numbers of visible landlines in an electorate and conservative voting patterns but there are some interesting exceptions. The paragraphs just kept rising, I was writing in the conference, and it was getting too complicated… Eventually I edited it out the surplus paragraphs

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Government support screen industry with funding for sound stages in West Auckland
    Auckland Film Studios in West Auckland has received funding for a major expansion through the Government’s Infrastructure Reference Group’s (IRG) COVID-19 Response Fund. The Government is investing $30 million of a total $35 million project to construct two 2,000sqm sound stages and development of further workshops and offices, to expand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    17 hours ago
  • Protecting unique land for generation next
    The Government is boosting legal protection for critically important natural habitats on private land, Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan says. “An $8 million investment over four years will see Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Ngā Kairauhī Papa (QEII) work with government agencies, councils and others to provide legal protection of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • New Zealand’s support for Fiji’s COVID-19 response continues with vaccine delivery, operational ...
    Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced further support for Fiji, including funding support for nursing staff and 100,000 doses of vaccines due to arrive in country today. “Our thoughts remain with Fiji during this incredibly challenging period,” Nanaia Mahuta said. “New Zealand has funded 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    20 hours ago
  • Poroporoaki: Dr Hōhepa (Joe) Mason
    Ko koe tēnā e te hurumanu e Hōhepa, te tōwenetanga a te iti, te māpihi herenga mahara o te tini, ka tauawhi tonuhia koe e to iwi ki te uma pupuri ai. Me pēhea he kupu kia koutou kua puta i nga ākinga a nga tau kua hori, kua waia ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    23 hours ago
  • Finance Minister and RBNZ Governor agree to update MOU on macro-prudential policy
    Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr have updated the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on macro-prudential policy to further protect the financial system and support the Government’s housing objectives. “This change will ensure that the Reserve Bank has the flexibility to respond to emerging financial stability risks ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    24 hours ago
  • Government commits further assistance for drought and flood-affected rural communities
    Farmers and growers affected by this year’s drought or floods in Marlborough, Tasman, West Coat, Canterbury, Otago and the Chatham Islands will have access to Rural Assistance Payments (RAPs) from today, Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni has announced. “The Government is committed to easing the financial pressures on ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Cook Islands youth lead Language Week
    The Cook Islands Language Week theme for 2021 highlights the vital role language plays in maintaining young people’s links to their Pacific home, said Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.  “The Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani – Cook Islands Language Week – theme is ‘Ātuitui’ia au ki ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government offers formal apology for Dawn Raids
    A formal and unreserved apology for the Dawn Raids The Government will offer education scholarships as part of the apology Manaaki New Zealand Short Term Scholarship Training courses Support Pacific artists and historians to develop a comprehensive written and oral account of the Dawn Raids Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Speech to Dawn Raids Apology
    Tēnā koutou katoa, Kia orana kotou katoatoa, Fakaalofa lahi atu ki mutolu oti, Tālofa nī, Mālō nī koutou, Ni sa bula vinaka, Fakatalofa atu, Noa'ia 'e mauri, Kam na mauri, Malo e lelei, Sioto'ofa, Mālō lava le lagi e mamā ma le soifua maua, Oue tulou, tulou atu, tulouna lava ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Bridging the gap – last piece of Northcote Safe Cycle Route now complete
    The opening of two bridges over Auckland’s Northern Motorway is the last link of a cycling and walking route which provides a safe, active alternative for students and commuters, Transport Minister Michael Wood said today. Michael Wood cut the ribbon for the completion of the Northcote Safe Cycle Route, at ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Progress in establishment of Aged Care Commissioner
    Recruitment for an Aged Care Commissioner will start next month, to ensure greater oversight of New Zealand’s aged care sector. “This sector is responsible for supporting a large and often vulnerable population. While most people are able to access quality care, there have been cases where that care has fallen ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New record number of homes consented
    In the year ended June 2021, the actual number of new dwellings consented was 44,299, up 18 percent from the June 2020 year. In June 2021, the seasonally adjusted number of new dwellings consented rose 3.8 percent. In June 2021, 4,310 new dwellings were consented, an increase of 3.8 per ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Communities backed to tackle wilding pines
    Twelve community projects across New Zealand will receive a share of $2 million to carry out wilding pine control, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor announced as part of Biosecurity Week. “Wilding pines are a serious problem that threaten many of the unique landscapes that New Zealanders value. Community groups and trusts ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Health Minister Andrew Little responding to the New Zealand Nurses Organisation's rejection of ...
    I was advised last night that the result of the ballot of Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa New Zealand Nurses Organisation members have rejected the latest proposal to settle their collective agreement. Let me be clear: the proposal was one they put to the Government. The Nurses Organisation rejected their ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation introduced to Parliament
    Legislation has been introduced to Parliament to protect against practices intended to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Introducing the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill, Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, said the measures proposed were aimed at ending conversion practices which don’t work, are widely ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New kaupapa Māori mental health and addiction services to support people in central North Island
    New mental health and addiction services rolling out across the central North Island will improve outcomes and equity for Māori, Associate Minister of Health (Māori Health) Peeni Henare says. Today the Minister met with providers of the new kaupapa Māori primary mental health and addiction service, Poutama Ora, which will ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New school site for booming West Auckland
    The Government will build on a new school site in West Auckland to cope with rapid population growth in the area, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. The Ministry is working with existing local schools to determine how the 1.5-hectare site at 279 Hobsonville Point Road will be used to support ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Trans-Tasman travel window to close at midnight tomorrow
    A further 500 MIQ rooms released for managed returnees from NSW Further Government actions announced today are balanced to provide more certainty for Kiwis wanting to return from Australia, while continuing to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, acting Minister for COVID-19 Response Ayesha Verrall says. The actions were foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Govt investing millions in Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti schools
    Napier Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools are among those set to benefit from a $16.5 million investment in the Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti region, Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash announced today. The Government has set aside money in Budget 2021 to accelerate five projects in Napier, Hastings, Havelock North ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Game changing Jobs for Nature investment for Northland
    Conservation Minister Kiri Allan has announced Jobs for Nature funding for a portfolio of projects that will create ‘game changing’ gains for nature and communities across Northland/Te Tai Tokerau as part of the Government’s acceleration of the economic recovery from COVID. “This portfolio of 12 projects will see over $20 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Third COVID-19 vaccine receives provisional approval
    New Zealand’s regulatory authority Medsafe has granted provisional approval of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older, Acting Minister for COVID-19 Response Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. New Zealand secured 7.6 million doses (enough for 3.8 million people) of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through an ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Bowel-cancer screening programme is saving lives
    More than 1000 New Zealanders have had bowel cancer – New Zealand’s second-most-common cause of death from cancer - detected under the Government’s National Bowel Screening Programme, Health Minister Andrew Little said today. More than 1200 New Zealanders died from bowel cancer in 2017. The screening programme aims to save ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Govt welcomes draft report on the retail grocery sector
    The Commerce Commission’s draft report into the retail grocery sector is being welcomed by Government as a major milestone. “I asked the Commerce Commission to look at whether this sector is as competitive as it could be and today it has released its draft report for consultation,” Commerce and Consumer ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Christchurch’s Youth Hub ‘set to go’ thanks to further Government funding
    Construction of New Zealand’s first, purpose-built centre for youth well-being is ready to get underway thanks to an extra $2.5 million of COVID-19 response funding, Housing Minister and Associate Minister of Finance, Megan Woods announced today.  “The Christchurch Youth Hub is about bringing together all the things young people need ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Next step to protect Milford Sound Piopiotahi
    Expert group lays out plan to better protect iconic UNESCO World Heritage site Milford Sound Piopiotahi and its surrounds Funding confirmed for dedicated unit and Establishment Board to assess the recommendations and provide oversight of the process from here Milford Opportunities Project a test case for transformational change in tourism ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Funding for projects to reduce waste from construction and demolition
    The Government has announced funding for projects in Auckland and the lower North Island to help reduce construction and demolition waste. “Construction is the main source of waste sent to landfill, and much of this could be reduced, reused and recovered,” Environment Minister David Parker said. “The Government is funding ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Speech at the launch of the National Hepatitis C Action Plan
    Tēnā koutou katoa. Thank you Anglesea Pharmacy and Te Manawa Taki for hosting this event. As a doctor, I saw first hand the impact of hepatitis C. I met Moana in 2019; she came to the infectious diseases outpatient clinic at Wellington Hospital having tested positive for hepatitis C. Like ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Plan to eliminate hepatitis C as a major health threat by 2030
    A plan to eliminate hepatitis C in New Zealand, reducing liver cancer and the need for liver transplants, has been released today by Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall. “Around 45,000 New Zealanders have hepatitis C, but only around half know they have it,” said Ayesha Verrall. “Symptoms often ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • School upgrades and new classrooms for West Coast, Tasman and Canterbury
    A funding injection from Budget 2021 to complete four shovel ready projects and new classrooms at six schools and kura will provide a real boost to local communities, Minister Dr Megan Woods announced today. “This Government has committed to providing quality fit for purpose learning environments and 100,000 new student ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Warmer Kiwi Homes smashes annual target
    The Government's highly successful insulation and heating programme, Warmer Kiwi Homes, is celebrating a key milestone with the completion of more than 38,000 insulation and efficient heater installs in the year to the end of June, smashing its target of 25,000 installs for the year. “The Warmer Kiwi Homes scheme ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Exemption granted for Wallabies to enter NZ
    Bledisloe Cup rugby will be played in New Zealand after the Australian rugby team received an economic exemption to enter New Zealand. Travel between Australia and New Zealand was suspended on Friday for at least eight weeks following the worsening of the COVID outbreak across the Tasman. New Zealanders have ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs makes three diplomatic appointments
    Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced three New Zealand Head of Mission appointments. They are: Mike Walsh as Ambassador to Iran Michael Upton as Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union Kevin Burnett as Ambassador to Indonesia Iran “Aotearoa New Zealand has a long-standing and constructive relationship with Iran, despite a ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Enhanced Task Force Green Approved for West Coast and Marlborough
    The Government has activated Enhanced Task Force Green (ETFG) in response to the West Coast and Marlborough floods, Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced today. “To assist with the clean-up, up to $500,000 will be made available to support the recovery in Buller and Marlborough which has experienced ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt support for upgrade of Eden Park players facilities
    Minister for Sport and Recreation Hon Grant Robertson has announced funding to upgrade the players facilities at Eden Park ahead of upcoming Women’s World Cup events. Eden Park is a confirmed venue for the Rugby World Cup 2021, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022, and a proposed venue for matches of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • More jobs and quicker public transport motoring towards West Auckland
    Work to improve public transport for West Aucklanders and support the region’s economic recovery by creating hundreds of jobs has officially kicked off, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today. Michael Wood and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff this morning marked the start of construction on the Northwestern Bus Improvements project. It ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government backs critical health research
    Research into some of New Zealanders’ biggest health concerns including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease is getting crucial support in the latest round of health research funding, Health Minister Andrew Little announced today. The funding, awarded through the Health Research Council of New Zealand, covers 31 General Project grants ($36.64 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Bay of Islands hospital facilities to bring services closer to home
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Andrew Little have joined a ceremony to bless the site and workers for Phase Two of the redevelopment of the Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa today. The new building will house outpatients and primary care facilities, as well as expanded renal care ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Raukokore re-imagined with ‘smart’ relocatable rent to own housing
    Iwi, Crown Partnership Relocatable, fully insulated housing, connected to a new solar plant Provides a pathway to home ownership New housing in the remote eastern Bay of Plenty community of Raukokore shows how iwi and Crown agencies can work together effectively to provide warm, dry, energy efficient homes in a ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cabinet accepts Turkish authorities’ request for the managed return of three NZ citizens
    Cabinet has agreed to the managed return of a New Zealand citizen and her two young children from Turkey, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. The three have been in immigration detention in Turkey since crossing the border from Syria earlier this year. Turkey has requested that New Zealand repatriate ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Govt delivers more classrooms so children can focus on learning
    Extra Government investment in classrooms and school building projects will enable students and teachers to focus on education rather than overcrowding as school rolls grow across the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis say. The pair visited Ruakākā School in Whangārei today to announce $100 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago