Poll: Americans Don’t Trust Polls

New findings paint a dark picture of the survey research industry.

National Journal
Steven Shepard
See more stories about...
Steven Shepard
Sept. 4, 2013, 4:30 a.m.

If you’re like 75 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans, you think the polling data presen­ted in this art­icle is biased.

Ac­cord­ing to a new poll from the “data in­vest­ment man­age­ment” or­gan­iz­a­tion Kantar on Wed­nes­day, three in four Amer­ic­ans “be­lieve that most polls you hear about … are biased to­ward a par­tic­u­lar point of view,” while only 19 per­cent think they are un­biased.

That find­ing, re­leased as part of a lar­ger event on the fu­ture of pub­lic-opin­ion polling sponsored by Kantar, paints a dark pic­ture of the sur­vey re­search in­dustry, which is try­ing to ad­just to changes in tech­no­logy and pri­vacy pref­er­ences that are mak­ing it harder for the in­dustry to reach many Amer­ic­ans.

But the event also comes less than two weeks since Kantar ac­quired the lead polling firm on Pres­id­ent Obama’s reelec­tion cam­paign last year, Ben­en­son Strategy Group.

The poll is de­scribed as a “bench­mark sur­vey” that aims “to start map­ping the path to pub­lic opin­ion.” Re­spond­ents in­dic­ated that they have more trust in sur­veys con­duc­ted by non­par­tis­an groups, such as found­a­tions or aca­dem­ic groups, than those con­duc­ted for polit­ic­al cli­ents or by the news me­dia. Sixty-four per­cent have at least “some trust” in polls con­duc­ted by “aca­dem­ic cen­ters,” and 54 per­cent trust sur­veys from “non­par­tis­an found­a­tions.” But only 46 per­cent have a modic­um of trust in polls from polling com­pan­ies, and even few­er, 43 per­cent, trust those sur­veys from news me­dia or­gan­iz­a­tion.

That’s still more trust than Amer­ic­ans put in sur­vey res­ults from poll ag­greg­at­ors who av­er­age or oth­er­wise meld polling data (30 per­cent); polit­ic­al parties or can­did­ates (27 per­cent); and auto­mated voice-re­cord­ing firms (16 per­cent).

(In an ex­per­i­ment, half of re­spond­ents were asked about spe­cif­ic firms, which in­dic­ated more trust in me­dia polls. The two news or­gan­iz­a­tions chosen — NBC News and The Wall Street Journ­al — might mol­li­fy dis­trust from both ends of the polit­ic­al spec­trum.)

Re­spond­ents were split fairly evenly on the ques­tion of wheth­er journ­al­ists and ed­it­ors “use a com­mon set of stand­ards to eval­u­ate the qual­ity of polls to de­term­ine which polls they will re­port and which ones they will not” — 51 per­cent said yes, and 41 per­cent said no.

Na­tion­al Journ­al and The Hot­line only re­port res­ults for polls con­duc­ted util­iz­ing prob­ab­il­ity samples and gen­er­ally avoid auto­mated-phone sur­veys.

The Kantar poll was con­duc­ted Ju­ly 24-Aug. 4 and sur­veyed 1,011 adults by land­line and cell phone. The mar­gin of er­ror is plus-or-minus 3.1 per­cent­age points — as­sum­ing you be­lieve that.

What We're Following See More »
JOINS BUSHES, MCCAIN
Romney to Skip Convention
25 minutes ago
THE LATEST

An aide to Mitt Romney confirmed to the Washington Post that the 2102 GOP nominee will not attend the Republican convention this year. He joins the two living Republican presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as 2008 nominee John McCain in skipping the event. Even among living Republican nominees, that leaves only Bob Dole who could conceivably show up. Dole did say in January that he'd prefer Trump to Ted Cruz, but his age (92) could keep him from attending.

Source:
CALIFORNIA MAKES IT 21
FDA to Ban All Tobacco Sales to Minors
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a long-awaiting new rule, the Food and Drug Administration will ban sale of all tobacco products—including e-cigarettes—to those under 18. The rule takes effect in 90 days. It's part of a larger package of regulations that "gives FDA authority to regulate—but not to ban—all tobacco products, from e-cigarettes to cigars and hookahs." Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Wednesday that would bump the legal age to buy all tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Source:
#NEVERTRUMP
Sen. Sasse Calls for a Third Candidate
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Ben Sasse, the most prominent elected official to declare that he's #NeverTrump, wrote an open letter on Facebook to the "majority of Americans who wonder why the nation that put a man on the moon can’t find a healthy leader who can take us forward together." Calling to mind recent conversations at a Fremont, Neb., Walmart, the senator pitted the presumptive general election battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as such a "terrible choice" that there would be an appetite for another candidate to emerge. In a parenthetical aside to reporters, Sasse ruled himself out. "Such a leader should be able to campaign 24/7 for the next six months," he wrote. "Therefore he/she likely can’t be an engaged parent with little kids." Meanwhile, his colleague Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admitted in a private recording obtained by Politico that Trump hurts his reelection chances.

Source:
UTAH REPUBLICAN
Former Sen. Bob Bennett Dies at 82
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Former Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Bennett was defeated in a primary in 2010 by Tea Party–backed Mike Lee.

Source:
CLINTON HERSELF COULD TESTIFY LATER
Judge Approves Deposition of Clinton Aides
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, approved a joint proposal presented by Judicial Watch and the State Department to take the depositions of officials" involved in the setup and use of Hillary Clinton's private email server, "including Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff, Huma Abedin, a senior adviser to Clinton, and Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee who serviced and maintained the server." He said Clinton could be deposed later on, though that may not be necessary.

Source:
×