Hurricane Sandy has severely disrupted the political polling industry just a week before one of the closest presidential elections in a generation.
The Gallup Organization announced on Tuesday that it was suspending its national tracking poll for a second consecutive evening, as the Mid-Atlantic states assess the damage wrought by Sandy and crews begin the work of restoring power to those who lost it during the storm, some 8.2 million from Maine south to the Carolinas, according to the Associated Press.
Gallup isn't alone in curtailing its phone polling this week. The daily tracking poll run by Investor's Business Daily and TIPP did not conduct interviews on Monday night, while automated, Democratically-aligned pollster Public Policy Polling suspended its landline-phone-only tracking poll Monday as well.
Sandy presents a unique challenge to public and campaign pollsters. With a significant segment of the population without power and phone service, the storm has compromised their ability to obtain a true, random sample of Americans, introducing the possibility of what is known as coverage bias. Additionally, for those East Coast residents who still have power or phone service but are cleaning up from the storm, they may be too busy to answer the phone or participate in a survey, introducing non-response bias. The affected region is also home to a few swing states -- such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire -- that will be difficult to poll accurately before Election Day.
But it isn't just the swing states. For example, some 90 percent of Long Island residents were without power Tuesday, according to Newsday. The East End of Long Island is home to a very competitive congressional race -- Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop is hoping to hold off GOP challenger Randy Altschuler for the second consecutive cycle -- that will be nearly impossible to poll before the election.