Public opinion polls offer no clarity on voting practices

Jordan Coll/ Staff Writer

With the recent outcome of the midterm elections, public opinion polls are put into question yet again. 

Interpreting these polls is not an easy task; especially when it comes to fairly representing the voice of the people. For starters, public opinion polls are intended to measure how a district feels toward matters regarding public policy.

By gathering a portion of the large group, a response of how people view political issues can be taken. Polls are quite valuable in the game of politics. Throughout history, public opinion polls have been used in creating policies suitable to the needs of constituents. 

One can say having this sort of information can build a candidate’s platform for tackling issues that are pressing to voters. But today’s elections have seemed to become much more complex in identifying what voters actually believe is right for their nation.

For instance, in these midterm elections, it was surprising to see how erroneous the polls were compared to the actual results. Polling data taken from RealClear Politics suggested Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate running for governor, was ahead of the senate race by three percent against his opponent Ron DeSantis. 

After the midterms, the results showed DeSantis was up by a margin of 3.9 percent – a 49.7 percent deviation from his original average of 45.8 percent. 

Why were the polls so far from the actual results of the race? 

This comes to no surprise in considering that not everyone is taken into account when sampling these polls. 

“Public opinion is a snapshot in time of what a sample of people are thinking at the moment, ” says American government professor Kathryn DePalo

She considers polls to be significant in mapping where candidates stand throughout an ongoing election but also considers the margin of error or how confident people are with the results in determining who in fact is ahead of the race, or simply a “statistical dead heat” as she refers a close race.

Under or oversampling is a problem polls face when trying to validate public thought. 

Public opinion polls can be misleading and far from the truth. 

Why have them in the first place if they no longer offer validity? 

In the past, it was believed that public opinion placed an important role in ensuring that citizens’ beliefs are embraced in a democracy. 

But modern elections have seemed to become much more unpredictable in accessing what people are looking for in their candidates.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash


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