Is it a political poll, or is it a fishing pole? This question may seem odd at first glance, but it’s actually become a pretty important question to ask yourself in Clark County.
It’s that time of year again, when Spring comes much too early and the flowers are budding – as are the political aspirations of those who are considering running for elected office. Many of these prospective candidates don’t even know that they are a prospective candidate until someone convinces them that they are, and polling results can be a very powerful tool to either convince them that they should run, or that they should not.
Typically, companies or organizations that conduct polls in the political arena divulge the methodology, including how many people were surveyed. Making this information available lends their poll much needed credibility and legitimacy, and when this information is not made available, it calls into question both the motives of the pollster as well as the accuracy (or even existence) of the poll. Without this information, the average person has no way of knowing how accurate the poll is, what the margin of error is, or if it is even a real poll, rendering the poll about as useful in politics as a fishing pole.
There are a number of ways to identify fishing poles in local politics, and another way is to ask yourself; does it smell fishy? Typically, scientific, accurate polling is very expensive & time consuming and for very good reason:
First, one has to identify whether or not a surveyed individual is a “likely voter”, which includes asking each person a series of carefully crafted questions that would identify their likelihood of voting (usually around 6-10 questions), followed by the questions that would determine the information that is sought by the poll. Note that a poll cannot rely on people’s voting history to determine likelihood of voting, because this automatically excludes anyone that is a new voter – causing the margin of error to skyrocket.
Secondly, the company or organization conducting the poll has to contact enough people that answer all of the 15+ questions in order to be safely certain that a random sample has been achieved; in Clark County, that’s at the very least 400 people. This means the organization would have to make 3,000+ random phone calls in order to 1) get enough people on the phone that are identified as likely voters, and 2) ensure you get enough people that actually answer all of the questions. Paying someone to conduct a poll with that sample size would typically cost between $10,000 and $20,000.
When approached with polling data, if it doesn’t seem reasonable that they spent the amount of time & money necessary for accuracy, that’s the kind of fishy odor that indicates this isn't a legitimate poll.
So remember, if a company, organization, or individual approaches you with poll results but refuses to divulge the methodology, sample size, questions they asked, etc. they are probably concerned that divulging that information will damage the credibility of the poll, or that the data doesn’t exist because the poll was not conducted properly.
Lastly, you want to ask yourself if this this poll coming from an unbiased source. If not, the poll is at best unreliable and at worst a method used by unscrupulous people to manipulate others. Using non-credible poll data to attract new clients and/or to frighten off one's competition is sadly becoming common in the political realm.
Below is a helpful flow chart that you can use to make sure you're not being manipulated by un-scientific or fake polls! You can also CLICK HERE to learn more about how reputable polling organizations like Pew Research and Gallup conduct their polling.