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Analysis on Relevance of Election Survey Results

May 11, 2006

Analysis:

In this piece WOOD TV 8 provides poll results on the governors race as well as a discussion of the role of polls in political races. The story provides an reasonable analysis on the relevance and validity of polls and points out that current poll results do not necessarily indicate who will win the race. Despite these qualifiers by the reporter on the limitations of polls, local TV news election coverage continues to really on poll numbers heavily. This focus on polls often leads to a lack of attention put on platforms, voting records and financial supporters.

Story:

WOOD Newsreader – For the first time, the polls are showing Dick Devos leading Governor Granholm. A Mitchell research poll has Devos ahead, forty-four, to forty-three percent over Granholm. The EPIC-MRA poll says Devos is favored by forty-six percent of those surveyed, compared to Granholm’s forty-five percent. 24-Hour News 8 reporter Rick Albin has been looking at these recent polls. He joins us now live in studio to look beyond the numbers.

Reporter – Suzy, polls are useful in tracking progress of a campaign, but each time you get new poll results, its likely that there is both more and less to those numbers than you may think.

Reporter – The latest numbers have Granholm and Devos in a statistical dead heat. In other words, given the amount of variable, or the margin of error, plus or minus four percent, either candidate could have a slight lead. But, they are essentially tied. So, you could interpret this as the first poll that shows Devos ahead. Or you might more accurately say the race has stayed very tight over the last thirty days. So what should we make of a poll this early in the election cycle?

Erika King (GVSU Political Science) – The old cliché is a poll is a snapshot in time, but it does give you information. What this does show is that it is at this point a competitive race..

Reporter – Erika King is a professor of political science at Grand Valley State University. She says not only are polls a snapshot, but polling in uncertain times may be more difficult.

Erika King – That is when you get a polarized electorate and a very close race. Polling does a microcosm of the voting public, and the voting public changes its mind throughout a campaign. Campaigns matter.

Reporter – But these polls, that can be dozens of pages long, can be helpful in gauging attitudes and trends. For example, this in the EPIC-MRA poll: “Will Michigan’s economy get better or worse in the next several months?” Only eighteen percent say it will get better. Thirty percent say it will get worse, nearly half believe it will remain the same. And those numbers don’t suggest how someone may vote, but they do give us a glimpse at people’s attitudes and opinions as election day approaches. Now, in the nearly six months left in this campaign, you’ll hear about dozens of polls, and remember, they are a reflection of the moment in when they are taken, and everything, I mean everything that happens subsequent to that poll can greatly impact the outcome of Decision 2006. I’m Rick Albin. 24 Hour News 8.

Total Time: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

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