Tales of Poll Denials Past

The year was 2004.

The source was USATGallup defends results against MoveOn.org attack

The complaint,  the wrong mix of partisans in the sample:

In recent weeks, complaints about the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup polls had mostly been aired in "blogs," or online diaries, on the Internet. Tuesday, the issue spilled into the "mainstream media." MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, paid $68,000 to run a full-page ad in The New York Times. The ad’s headline: "Gallup-ing to the Right. Why does America’s top pollster keep getting it wrong?"

The ad goes on to say that "two media outlets, CNN and USA TODAY, bear special responsibility" because "they pay for many of Gallup’s surveys."

At issue: Whether too many Republicans end up being counted as "likely voters" in Gallup’s polls. In the past six USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup polls this year, about 40% of the likely voters in the surveys said they considered themselves to be Republicans. By one measure, that’s higher than might be expected: Exit polls after the past three presidential elections showed that about 35% of voters in those years said they were Republicans.


Critics say the debate over Gallup’s work is important because the media’s reporting of polls can affect the dynamics of a campaign. "We need the most accurate information possible. Next week the stories could be ‘Kerry’s surging in the polls,’ but would that be true?" asks Markos Moulitsas Zniga, who’s dailykos.com blog is a popular site for liberals

Gee, where have I heard this before?

BTW, for those who may have forgotten how the story ended, it ends up that the samples were capturing more Republican voters at the time because the Republican candidate was more popular, ultimately, than the Democratic one and said Republican went on to win the election in November.

(As an aside, how cute are the scare quotes around “blogs” along with the parenthetical definition?)

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    So, it does all depend on whose ox is being gored. I’m sooo shocked!

  2. The Uskewed Polls thing has gotten even more surreal. The latest polls show Obama up +2 even after being weighted to match Rasmussen’s Party Identification distribution:


    Dean Chambers has responded be replacing the Rasmussen party ID statistics with one from a web-based survey of visitors to unskewedpolls.com itself:


    “I don’t understand it! 90% of America is Republican! How did we lose!?”

  3. An Interested Party says:

    How is it possible that the Kenyan Communist could win re-election? I mean, someone needs to explain how this odious usurper could win any real, honest, national election…

  4. KariQ says:

    In fairness, Gallup polls that year were significantly more GOP leaning than most other polls. I remember watching the polls and shaking my head and wondering if Gallup was interviewing a completely different country than most other major pollsters. At one point, they showed W. leading by 14 points, and no other poll was within 5 points of that margin. That does make for a bit of an outlier. That 14-point lead poll, by the way, was released shortly before this story was published so I’m guessing it may have been the immediate cause for the questioning.

    Of course, as the election approached, their polls came into line with the rest of the polling. This is pretty common with Gallup, as they have admitted that their likely voter screen is most accurate in the week or two before the election, so results before that won’t necessarily be an accurate reflection of the state of the race.

    In 2008, in fact, they released two versions of their poll because they found the difference between their traditional screen and the expressed intention to vote was so large, with their traditional screen showing a much closer race than the “expanded” one which counted only expressed intent to vote.

    This is not to pick on Gallup, mind you, just to note that they did in fact come up with some numbers that just didn’t look right that year, even knowing the ultimate result of the election.

  5. Fiona says:

    Complaints, yes, but I don’t remember any liberal sites being formed to present their own version of the polls skewed to show their candidate ahead. Nor do I recall it becoming a meme across the liberal media. So, this is yet another example of false equivalence.

    Did anyone see Chris Wallace’s takedown of a poll denier last night? I saw a clip on the Maddow show. Nice to see a Fox regular committing actual journalism every now and then.

  6. @KariQ: Yes, but identifying a poll as an outlier is legit. Demanding that all the polls are wrong and should be recalculated (and doing do) is an attempt to created an alternate reality.

  7. JohnMcC says:

    Made me think of the frequently quoted line, “How could Nixon win? No one I know voted for him.” Which is usually attributed to the theater critic @ the New Yorker, Pauline Kael. So I looked it up. Whaddaya know! Bernard Goldberg quoted her incorrectly (as Mark Twain said, ‘but I repeat myself’) in his book, Bias (fairly ironic, eh?). Funny how much BS turns out to have deep roots.

  8. Cyndeewi says:

    @An Interested Party: iy’t called racism. The majority of Americans are not as racist as you are. At least, the Kenyan as you call him did not start wars for oil and sent Americans out to be killed. I would rather be under a Kenyan that cares about Americans then under a warmonger. Now take that to the bank!

  9. PJ says:

    You are new here, aren’t you?

  10. @Cyndeewi: He is being sarcastic/engaging in a little bit of satire.

  11. KariQ says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Oh, I agree. But it wasn’t just that poll that was more Republican friendly. It was the entire series of polls Gallup produced up until around mid October that were much more GOP favorable than other pollsters.

    Also, this article doesn’t suggest that Democrats were doing the same thing as Republicans are doing this year. They specifically questioning a single poll’s results, not everyone’s. They call on Gallup to review it’s methodology, not jump in and start throwing weighting around themselves. There’s nothing in the article to suggest that Democrats were arguing that all Gallup was deliberately overstating support for Bush.

    So yes, to an extent there’s a fair “both sides do it” to this. But the Republicans, as is usual of late, have taken it to 11.

  12. @KariQ:

    But the Republicans, as is usual of late, have taken it to 11.


    (And really, both sides do it wasn’t really my point–it was more to illustrate the general silliness of the critique in the first place).

  13. Eric Florack says:
  14. @Eric Florack: I am supposed to learn about election prognostication from a fellow who wrote a book about how the 2008 contest was going to be between Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice?

  15. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Not to mention who predicted up until the 2008 election that McCain would win in a landslide.

    I mean everyone knows that Morris is one of the worst pundits currently operating. The only reason he continues to get work is (a) he says exactly what the audience wants to hear, and (b) his connection to the Clinton Whitehouse.

  16. @mattb:

    Not to mention who predicted up until the 2008 election that McCain would win in a landslide.

    Come to think of it, didn’t Mr, Florack insist in 2008 that McCain was going to win?

  17. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    As I remember he did indeed.

    Beyond that, simply citing Dick Morris as an authoritative source should immediately destroy any slim shred of credibility that Mr. Florack still retained.

  18. jukeboxgrad says:

    didn’t Mr, Florack insist in 2008 that McCain was going to win?

    Yup. On 11/2/08, someone said this:

    I just hope that Bithead is around to post on the “Election Night results” thread. It’s very unlikely that McCain even makes it to 200 EVs.

    Bithead responded as follows:

    Heh. Personally, I’m waiting for the reports of rioting in Grant park.

    “Heh,” indeed.