Under the Dome

Not a horse race poll

Political reporters are used to being criticized for focusing too much on the horse race.

But in the wake of a poll by the N&O, the Charlotte Observer, WNCN-TV in Raleigh and WCNC in Charlotte, some commentators — including Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling and Democratic consultant Gary Pearce — have complained about our data on the races.

To be clear, our pollsters were not trying to figure out who will show up on May 6 and how they'll vote, but rather to get the mood of the electorate on the issues.

To that end, they did not use a list of people who have voted in past elections to determine likely voters — the method used by Public Policy Polling, among others, in tracking polls. Instead, our pollsters called random numbers, then asked if respondents were registered to vote and intended to vote.

That may be one reason why the number of undecided voters is much higher than in some other polls. It also makes our "horse race" numbers a little less reliable, which is why our reporters did not stress them in the leads of the stories.

As the May 6 primary nears, the pool of likely voters may shift, but the issues will remain the same.


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Re: Not a horse race poll

A fair point. I've made that mistake in the past, but vow not to in the future.

— RTB 

Re: Not a horse race poll

I agree, you want multiple polls PLUS the informed, spot reporting to give you an accurate picture of where things are now -- and where they might be come voting time.

It seems obvious now that the Rev. Wright stuff either had NO impact on Obama's standing in NC, or respondents to polls are merely saying it had no impact. Me, I never understood why NC would be substantially different than SC, VA, or GA.

As for the GOP guv, it simply feels like there are a lot of undecideds, or perhaps more accurately, a ton of weak leans. The last best, or worst, impression will have a huge impact.

Finally, the horse race stuff bugs me when the lede omits the margin of error. It is like reporting on a financial quarter without reference to the RANGE of expected outcomes. If the race at hand it within the margin, the story should never say so-and-so leads. Call it a dead heat. Readers will thank you and respect you.

Re: Not a horse race poll

I've been quite pleased to see so many reputable political polling companies surveying North Carolina in the last few weeks. It's great that WRAL and WTVD hire companies like Rasmussen and Survey USA that have proven track records so there is a greater wealth of reliable polling out there on our races.

horse race polls and reporters

These "polls" are used just so Corporate Media does not have to do real reporting. It is so easy just to sit in front of a computer, copy and paste a "poll" and comment on who is in front and guess why. Real reporting entails going out among real voters, asking them real questions and reviewing the candidates positions on the real issues. This is just too much work for these present-day 'Copy and Paste Artists' who do their 'research' at the receptions hosted by Lobbyists.

Re: Not a horse race poll

I'm with Hunter. The more polls, the merrier.


Re: Not a horse race poll

If you release the horse race and write a whole article about it, it is a horse race poll.

I think it's great to do more issue focused polling, and I commend the McClatchy papers for that. But you should either do the horse race right or not do it at all.

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