Monday, 12 November 2012

New wave pollsters - Essential and Google

About a month ago in my column for crikey.com.au I declared Essential Research to be "my favourite pollster". That conversion (I had many months previously, wrongly, rather dismissed its relevance for being some new-fangled internet thing) was based on what seemed to me to be sensibly small weekly changes in its findings rather than the dramatic ups-and-downs of the other pollsters. Essential results seemed to tally much better with what Rod Cameron and Margie Gibbs of ANOP used to present me with when working on Labor election campaigns.
Now perhaps I have found an explanation, other than my own gut reaction, of why the pollster Crikey publishes each week might in fact be a better guide than Newspoll and AC Nielsen.
Nate Silver, the election prediction guru of The New York Times, writes today how, as Americans’ modes of communication change, the techniques that produce the most accurate polls seem to be changing as well. In Tuesday’s presidential election, he says, a number of polling firms that conduct their surveys online had strong results. Some telephone polls also performed well. But others, especially those that called land lines only or took other methodological shortcuts, performed poorly.
Some of the most accurate polling firms this year conducted their polls online. The final poll by Google Consumer Surveys had Mr. Obama ahead in the national popular vote by 2.3 percentage points — very close to his actual margin of 2.6 percentage points, as of Saturday morning. Ipsos, which conducted online polls for Reuters, and the Canadian online polling firm Angus Reid also fared well.
 (Click to enlarge)
Looking more broadly across the 90 polling firms that conducted at least one likely-voter poll in the final three weeks of the campaign, polling firms that conducted their polls wholly or partially online outperformed others on average. Among the nine in that category, the average error in calling the election result was 2.1 percentage points.
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