For those of us in journalism, we have seen mission creep and the need for instant gratification and information. It pervades our trade from sunrise to sunrise, each and every day.
Our job is to bring the news of the world to you, when it happens, as fast as possible. So it came as a surprise to us that we had found stories at 3:00 in the morning that needed to be told. The bad news, and the news that creates nervousness in the minds of our readers, of course, balanced out by positive news stories that are designed to warm your heart and soul. All of it, the good and the bad, happen without any concept of time. Which brings us to the subject of political polling.
Campaign managers, press specialists, and other aides assist their candidates through the art of public opinion. In the 24 hour news cycle, no story is too soon to tell.
The one thing that everyone wants is a prediction, or information from which to make a prediction about the future. While we might be able to see some events happen with advance warning, a political poll is nothing more than a snapshot in time; and can only tell you about the general opinions in a specific window of time.
The necessity for margin of error is important when we present this information in a form that we hope is pleasing to you. We attempt to give you insight and trends surrounding the subjects of these polls: politicians.
Here on March 31, 2016, voters want the latest poll numbers, the latest quotes, and they love to talk about them with each other. As we present the information to youi, here’s a great guide to understanding political polling. We call it The Polling Equation.
- The polls with the highest number of respondents are going to give you a perspective and a trend that may or may not affect the candidate that you support.
- The difference between a poll with 5000 respondents versus a smaller sample size, like 400 likely voters, means the poll with the 5000 respondents is much more accurate than a poll that had 400 respondents.
- The smaller the sample size, the greater chance for error in the results. That is why a smaller sample size will have a larger margin of error than a larger sample.
- Timing is everything is a phrase heard in many places here in the United States. The same thing can be said about polling; when to conduct them, and what kind of influence the pollster wants to have with his or her audience.
As we head towards Tuesday’s March 5 primary in Wisconsin, the polls are all over the map. There is no clear front runner, and any two polls taken even a day apart can favor one candidate over the other; yet, the eventual underdog can sometimes win the election.
A change we have not enjoyed seeing are news organizations obtaining leaked polling information. Until its released, a poll’s results are always subject to change. Publicizing poll results and not having the entire poll at hand means that you have no way to verify the information you are reading.
Historically, voters in the Badger State of Wisconsin will wait the longest to choose candidates they wish to vote for. In recent surveys, as many as 25% have said they will not make up their mind until the day of the election; and sometimes, not until the voter steps into the voting booth.
With 25% truly undecided in the race for the Republican state presidential primary, candidates will need as much information as they can get their hands on. Wisconsin voters like to be told things straight to their face, without a lot of extra nonsense. Based on polling in March, no Republican candidate has “caught the eye” of Wisconsin voters…just yet. Gaining a voter’s trust is as difficult as making a good keg of beer.
Rejoice Wisconsin! Your time in the spotlight is here. You can make a difference with your one vote. Exercise your right to vote for the candidate of your choice; just make sure you have some extra brats for the after party.