Category Archives: Media

How a poll is interpreted by news organizations

Quinnipiac University released a poll comparing President Obama and his Republican challengers in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.  The university’s news release reads this way: In his best showing in this election cycle, President Barack Obama pulls away from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in two critical swing states, while a third state remains too close to call.

I thought it would be interesting to see how news organizations interpreted the polling results for their readers. And each organization gives the results a different slant — in some cases, very different. Here is a sampling.

Miami HeraldThe improving economy and a diminishing GOP brand are boosting President Obama and hamstringing his Republican rivals in the must-win swing states of Florida and Ohio.

Wall Street JournalBarack Obama is benefiting from an improving economy – and from the fact that most voters don’t blame him for rising gasoline prices, according to a new Quinnipiac poll of key swing states.

Cleveland Plain DealerPresident Barack Obama would win Ohio, and therefore probably the nation, if the 2012 election were held today, according to a new poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University.

Los Angeles TimesPresident Obama‘s standing in a trio of battleground states is improving, while GOP front-runner Mitt Romney is struggling on the key test of favorability, two new polls indicate.

Washington PostPresident Obama is pulling away from his Republican rivals in key swing states, a new Quinnipiac poll finds.

Tampa Tribune — A large gender gap and a recovering economy are pushing President Barack Obama to a significant lead in Florida over Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, a new Quinnipiac University poll says.

Bloomberg News — President Barack Obama runs ahead of Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in two states critical to deciding the November election and leads by a lesser margin in a third, according to a poll that says Obama is benefiting from a recovering economy and support among female voters.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette— A new poll of Pennsylvania voters shows a close race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, while matchups in two other swing states lean toward the president.

Scranton Times-Tribune — In new surveys of voters in Pennsylvania and two other presidential race swing states, President Barack Obama led the top Republican contenders in all three with an improving economy fueling his leads, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Warning!  To quote a CNN story about its own poll: Remember that the election is not being held today, so the survey is not a prediction of what will happen in the general election.

— John Robinson


Avoiding polling fatigue

Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal wrote a column this week that sums up what confuses and frustrates many people — including, at times, me — about political polling.

More than anything else, polling drives political coverage in the media, especially when it comes to the presidential race. More than ever, the polls are provoking pundits to come up with misleading narratives to explain what’s happening. Combine many reporters’ distaste for math with a boatload of unreliable numbers, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

His primary beef, aside from talking heads drawing inept conclusions, is with polling firms that use robo-calls to gather data. Voters responding to automated calls tend to offer more negative feedback than if they had been contacted by live-caller pollsters, perhaps because they’re annoyed at being bothered by a robo-call. When respondents are unfamiliar with candidates, they tend to give them poor reviews—rather than simply say they’re undecided.

The Elon University Poll does several things differently.

* We use live-caller pollsters — Elon students, actually — who speak with the people who respond to the poll.

* Historically, we haven’t surveyed likely voters, which campaigns and the media prefer, because our interest hasn’t been to record who might win or lose at any given time. Instead, our intent is to reflect what all North Carolinians think. We hope that the state’s leaders will use the state’s residents’ preferences when setting policy.

* We don’t poll daily or even weekly. We poll three times each semester — no more frequently than monthly — so that we can watch longterm trends.

— John Robinson

A deeper look at the North Carolina economy

Rob Christensen of the News & Observer traveled to Rocky Mount to put a human face on one of the results of the latest Elon University Poll: the worry over the economy. From his front-page story:

Asked what was the most important issue facing the state, North Carolinians overwhelmingly (53 percent) cited the economy. At 16 percent, education was a distant second.

Some small-business owners said they are holding on by their fingertips. Workers in the old economy such as textiles have seen their jobs disappear and are having to settle for work that pays a fraction of what they used to earn. Retirement plans are being delayed. And others, already living on the edge, find themselves pushed even further to the fringes.

— John Robinson

Elon University Poll in the news

Here are breakdowns of all the poll results.

(Image courtesy of the Newseum.)

News & Observer: A majority of North Carolinians are opposed to the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages that will be on the May 8 ballot, even as they remain skeptical about gay marriages.

WCNC: An exclusive new poll shows North Carolinians are more optimistic about the economy, favor Mitt Romney in the GOP race to the White (House)and are warming to the idea of same-sex marriage.


N.C. Policy Watch: Opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage has risen slightly over the last two months.

News & Record: North Carolina residents are unhappy with the job their state legislature is doing, according to results from an Elon University Poll released Friday.

Pam’s House Blend: Hot off the press…news that should shake things up for the fundies trying to “protect” marriage in NC. The trend is moving in the direction of sanity.

The Pendulum: The results from the most recent Elon Poll reveal that North Carolinians have an increasingly favorable opinion of President Barack Obama and are more optimistic about the national economy.









Elon University Poll in the news

The Charlotte Observer: President Barack Obama’s poll numbers are inching upward in this key swing state, but more North Carolinians still disapprove than approve of how he’s handling the economy and his job overall.

WTVD: An exclusive Elon University ABC11/Raleigh News and Observer poll shows President Obama may have an uphill climb in his effort to win North Carolina in the November election.
News & Record: President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers have ticked up slightly over the past six months, according to the Elon University Poll. That news comes as the president prepares for what amounts to a campaign visit at a truck manufacturing plant near Charlotte on Wednesday.
News & Observer: President Barack Obama’s poll numbers are inching upward in this key swing state, but more North Carolinians still disapprove than approve of how he’s handling the economy and his job overall.
News 14:  More North Carolina voters approve of the job of President Barack Obama than just a few months ago. In a new Elon University/News 14 Carolina poll, the president’s favorability rating is on the rise.
Burlington Times-News: President Barack Obama’s job approval rating is up slightly, according to the results of an Elon University Poll released this week.
— John Robinson