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Voice of the Reader: Political polling accuracy falling off

August 25, 2013 Updated: August 25, 2013 at 11:35 am
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Poll results for Colorado last week made Republicans happy about their 2014 gubernatorial chances and made Democrats happy that a majority of Coloradans oppose recalling two Democratic state senators.

The results were released by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, a respected and politically neutral polling operation. The poll said only 45 percent of Colorado voters want Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper re-elected.

That brought a smile to Republicans, giving them hope they can defeat Hickenlooper in 2014.

But Democrats could take heart that a strong majority of voters - 60 percent - disapprove of using recalls to remove officeholders simply because some people disagree with them.

Polls are fun, but because Hickenlooper is 14 months from his general election day, the poll doesn't mean much.

Similarly, it's irrelevant what voters around the state think about the recall elections for state Sens. John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo because only the voters in those two Senate districts get to vote on it.

You might think that as technology and marketing techniques have improved over the years, polling would be getting more accurate. Yet many experts say that's not the case.

Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger who has won acclaim for his accurate predictions in the most recent election cycles, notes that many pollsters have missed the mark badly of late - especially the famed Gallup poll, which picked Mitt Romney to beat President Barack Obama in November.

Why is polling getting worse?

It's because no matter how much Americans may like to read poll results, they are becoming far less likely to take part in polls.

"Response rates to all types of polls are decreasing, as Americans become more aggressive about screening their phone calls," Silver writes.

He adds that "many young Americans - and an increasing number of older Americans - rely primarily or entirely on their mobile phones, which many pollsters do not call."

The only polls we can really trust will be the ones taken Sept. 10, when the recall elections are held.

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Contact Barry Noreen at 636-0363 or barry.noreen@gazette.com.

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