A Word On Polling

As we enter into the season where people start arguing about polls being “skewed” and elections being “rigged,” it worth hearing from an actual pollster who’s been doing actual polls for more than a few years. John Garst, the President of Rosetta Stone Communications, posted a note on his Facebook page to explain the challenges facing pollsters today, and how the industry is evolving. While any information or opinion on any poll should be taken with a large grain of salt, it’s worth noting that Rosetta Stone has have accurately predicted the outcome of the primaries and general elections in 2012, 2014 and 2016 in Georgia.

By John Garst, President – Rosetta Stone Communications

As many of you know – Rosetta Stone Communications has been a leader in public opinion polling in Georgia for many years. In the last several years we have used a blend of interactive voice response (IVR, the acronym for recorded calls) and hand-dialed cellphone calls to collect data. All our surveys have been weighted to ensure an accurate mix of demographic groups. Our record is public, and we have worked very hard to be accurate.

Starting in the 2016 election cycle it became obvious that we could no longer reach voters under 40 and our surveys were at risk of dangerously under-representing younger voters. To adapt, we pioneered the process of geo-fencing – delivering surveys directly into the homes of voters under 40 and displaying them on their handheld electronic devices. The publicly released surveys and the polling for our political clients have included this new method of digitally collected data for our surveys.

If you follow political polling generally -or Real Clear Politics specifically- you may have noticed that far fewer surveys are being released this year, and they’ve been less frequent and from lesser-known polling companies. This is due to both the increased cost of sampling and the uncertainty of new technologies during an especially chaotic Presidential election.

Currently – data is collected in three distinct ways: 1. Telephone (both land-line and cellular), 2. Digital ad delivery to mobile devices or 3. Large focus groups that are set up at the beginning of an election cycle and polled repeatedly to watch trends.

Polling firms which use the large focus group method are the LA Times and YouGov. Polling firms that rely heavily on phoning are Rasmussen and Survey USA, and firms which utilize a blend of phoning and digital data collection are us (RosettaStone and our public polling partners at Landmark Communications) and local Atlanta firm OpinionSavvy.

Only time will tell which of these methods is most effective, but on November 9th – Rosetta Stone Communications will begin the process of sifting through the piles of publicly accessible data to ascertain who has best predicted the outcome of this election and what methodology was used to collect the data. While the survey methods are adapting to technological advances, we take our profession seriously and are dedicated to providing the most accurate polling information to campaigns and advocacy groups in the future.

Thank you.


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