Since 1948, when pollsters unanimously forecast a Dewey victory over Truman, media-sponsored polls have proliferated, accompanied by a growing unease about their accuracy. Pre-Election Polling probes the results of over 430 recent polls and taps the professional “lore” of experienced pollsters to offer a major new assessment of polling practices in the 1980s.
In a study of unusual scope and depth, Crespi examines the accuracy of polls conducted before a range of elections, from presidential to local. He incorporates the previously unpublished observations and reflections of pollsters representing national organizations (including Gallup, Roper, and the CBS/New York Times Poll) as well as pollsters from state, academic, and private organizations. Crespi finds potential sources of polling error in such areas as sampling, question wording, anticipating turnout, and accounting for last-minute changes in preference. To these methodological correlates of accuracy he adds important political considerations—is it a primary or general election; what office is being contested; how well known are the candidates; how crystallized are voter attitudes?
Polls have become a vital feature of our political process; by exploring their strengths and weaknesses, Pre-Election Polling enhances our ability to predict and understand the complexities of voting behavior.
"Combines intelligent empirical analysis with an informed insider's interpretation of the dynamics of the survey research process....Should be studied not only by all practitioners and students of opinion research but by anyone who makes use of polls." —Leo Bogart, Newspaper Advertising Bureau, Inc.