With Hurricane Sandy potentially set to hit wide swaths of the East Coast, Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll, suggested Friday that the hurricane could impair his company's ability to conduct its national tracking poll, among the most widely followed sources of polling data on the presidential race between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
Newport, appearing on MSNBC's "Jansing & Co.," responded to a question from Chris Jansing about the potential impact of the storm on Gallup's polling by saying, "It affects us, because if a sizable hunk of the country can't communicate -- power's out or they're disrupted -- then that can affect our national estimate. So you're right, we might have to stop polling for the days when the storm hits, unfortunately."
In response to an inquiry from The Huffington Post, Newport said that Gallup was monitoring the situation and that while he couldn't provide much more specific information, the key to the decision would be whether "significant population areas along the East Coast were affected and therefore disproportionately unlikely to be responsive to contacts."
HuffPost reached out to the seven other companies currently conducting national tracking polls, and several responded that the storm could impede their polling as well.
Julia Clark and Clifford Young of Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducts a tracking poll using an online panel, both said that they anticipated continuing to conduct their polls regardless of the circumstances, but with a careful eye to how the storm affects response rates in relevant regions. Clark was doubtful that the disruption would be so great that they'd be forced to stop releasing their poll, saying that they would have to see "whole states or regions without Internet for more than a 48-hour period before we'd start to worry about data quality."
Tom Jensen of the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, which conducts surveys using automated phone calls, said he was planning to "wait and see what happens," but that there was a possibility the storm could change his firm's plans for polling nationally.
CVoter's Yashwant Deshmukh, whose company conducts a national tracking poll for UPI, told HuffPost that he was coincidentally scheduled to lead a conference session next week to discuss how to reach populations impacted by disasters and conflicts. He said that one option his firm might consider was to switch from calling landline numbers to calling cell phones, since his company's experience polling in other countries after disasters was that mobile numbers are the easiest to reach in those cases. But Deshmukh said that his firm would consider carefully whether political polling under those circumstances would be appropriate, depending on the severity of the crisis.
If damage from the storm is so severe that national pollsters are unable to contact voters, political polling will be the least of the country's worries. But add polling junkies to the list of people nervously watching the weather reports.
To learn about how you can help those affected by the hurricane, click here.