Polls Can Be a Helpful Tool When Done Right

Christian Lohrenz ® Columnist |

According to most polls, it appears as though Joe Biden is leading quite a bit over President Trump in regard to the general election. While results across different polls are certainly varied, the consensus is a Biden edge so far. This is interesting though, since the polls around this time in 2016 were so similar. At the time, Hillary Clinton also held rather extensive leads. Since then, many across the country — including myself — have wondered: how accurate can those polls truly be? 

Polls have been an excellent source of gathering data for a long time, especially when looking into elections. The results of the 2016 election, along with the inaccuracies of the polls leading up to election day, have widely been criticized. This comes down to a wide consensus that many modern polls tend not to be as careful as needed when collecting and displaying their data. Every polling organization does have different ways and criteria for polling, which can be a good thing when collecting data.  

In this election specifically organizations seem to be trying to expand their practices to include more diverse populations in which they are polling to try to bridge the gap that seemed to be missed in 2016. All this aside, the trust that average citizens seem to have in polls has certainly decreased to some extent. The growing amount of information among social media also may contribute to this fiasco. 

All in all, as much as we may want to try to predict the future, it is inevitably impossible to accurately do so with certainty. Polls by their nature try to create an educated array of outcomes. While these may be a comfort to some or a worry to others depending on their own opinions, the question may be if they actually impact the outcome of the election.  

There have been studies done to try to calculate if polls and their results impact the votes. Often in these studies researchers found that as might be assumed, voters who supported a candidate whose chances were slim tended to vote less. All this to say that in some cases polls being inaccurate could truly impact the outcome. 

Over the course of the past four years polling organizations have tried to shuffle their attitudes to make readers feel more confident in their findings. This doesn’t appear to have comforted many across the country though. While Biden may seem to hold an edge for now, the results of the election in their finalization are truly the only thing that will certainly show the way American’s feel. 

Header photo: Christian Goodman, 18, votes for the first time in his life at the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Norwalk, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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