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Polling the Governor’s race

June 1, 2010

The Grand Rapids Press posted a short story today on new polling data for the Michigan Governor’s race. The poll was conducted by a North Carolina-based company called Public Policy Polling.

Based on their client list, the polling organization doesn’t seem to have any overt partisan biases. However, the polling they conducted only spoke with 377 likely republicans and 314 likely Democratic voters, a small number, which makes the polling data less credible.

The article does not provide readers with the actual language of the poll, so we don’t know what question(s) those polled were asked. We do know the data, which shows that Rick Snyder polled highest amongst likely GOP voters and Virg Bernero was first among likely Democratic voters.

However, this included people who called themselves independents, so when they talked to straight republic voters Pete Hoekstra topped the poll. That distinction make the headline of the story a bit misleading, since it says that Snyder was leading all Republicans, which one could argue is not true, based on what was said in the article.

The only person sourced in the story was a staff member of the polling company who said, “Voters really aren’t tuned into the governor’s race yet. The numbers could change a lot as the candidates become better known.” This comment begs the question how a pollster who only talked to only 700 likely voters can know what most Michigan voters are tuned into, especially since the polling company is not based in Michigan.

The article also does not say who paid the polling company to conduct the poll. Often those paying for the poll are candidates or political parties who want to pump up their own numbers. But polls are often paid for by news agencies as a way to try to generate better ratings or increase news interest with horse-race polling, where there is nothing more than numbers and no information about issues or candidate platforms.

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