Margin of Error: Political Pollsters Still Don’t Know What They’re Doing

Few polls have signaled Democratic peril this year quite like those in Colorado, the purple state that twice helped push Barack Obama into the White House. Just look at Quinnipiac’s surveys throughout 2013. They’ve found Obama’s public approval in Colorado ranging from the low 40s to the mid 30s; formerly high-flying Gov. John Hickenlooper in statistical dead heats with some flawed GOP opponents; and Sen. Mark Udall well short of safe in his first reelection bid. And, looking out to 2016, the statewide polls have Vice President Joe Biden badly trailing in a match against one of the most polarizing Republicans in America, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Clearly Democrats have a problem in this swing state. But a bigger problem for Democrats and Republicans alike is polling itself. It’s not that pollsters are failing to accurately measure what people really think. They are still quite good at that. The recurring and increasingly disruptive problem is that the polling industry sometimes struggles to reach the right mix of people.

This could be the case in Colorado, where the surveys have a very different makeup than what exit polls suggest is the typical Colorado electorate. CONT.

Scott Bland, National Journal