I am honored to report that I have op-ed column in today's New York Times on a subject that will be familiar to regular readers: The need for better disclosure of methodological details by pollsters. I hope you will go read it all.
As it happens, John Zogby provides an epilogue on his hugely inaccurate California survey in his post Super Tuesday commentary:
About California: Some of you may have noticed our pre-election polling differed from the actual results. It appears that we underestimated Hispanic turnout and overestimated the importance of younger Hispanic voters. We also overestimated turnout among African-American voters. Those of you who have been following our work know that we have gotten 13 out of 17 races right this year, and so many others over the years. This does happen.
So now he tells us. Although, if you notice, he is still not ready to disclose the racial and ethnic composition of his California survey. By how much, exactly, did they "underestimate" HIspanic turnout and "overestimate" the contribution of younger Hispanics and African Americans? He did not make these details available on his survey release on Tuesday (at least not to non-subscribers), and is apparently not making them available now. SurveyUSA, Field, McClatchy/Mason Dixon, and Suffolk University did report demographic composition details. That ought to tell us something.
Incidentally, it is also worth noting that while the results of the final SurveyUSA poll nailed the final ten-point Clinton margin, and the "sturdy" 13-point Obama lead forecast by Zogby never materialized, in Missouri the roles were reversed. In the final hours, SurveyUSA showed Clinton leading by eleven <s>nine</s> points (54% to 43%), while Zogby gave Obama a slight advantage (45% to 42%). Obama won 49% of the actual vote to 48% for Clinton.
The lesson?: Better disclosure puts us in a better position to understand and interpret the data, but all pollsters are fallible and all polls are subject to error (random and otherwise).
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