Americans are having a hard time understanding who’s winning or losing midterm elections based on polls with wildly varying percentages, often derived from inconsistent or substandard methods of gathering information, Democratic and Republican pollsters said Friday.
Bill McInturff, co-founder of the Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies, offered the most scathing criticism, calling polls this election cycle “lousy work” and “crap.”
A major target was Gallup, which in late July showed Democrats ahead among registered voters on a generic ballot for congressional races, then Republican taking a 10-point lead in August, and now calling the voting even.
“That was a disaster,” Mr. McInturff said during a panel discussion on polls sponsored by the National Press Foundation in Washington. He also said Gallup’s explanation about the variance over such a short period of time was “tortured.”
Mr. McInturff said the most reliable polls include ones by the Pew Foundation, NBC-Wall Street Journal and Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports.
“Say what you want, [Scott Rasmussen] has done a heck of lot better because he looks at age and race,” he said.
Mr. McInturff said one poll this cycle, which he would not name, had 68 percent of its respondents older than 50.
He said pollsters need to move from calling respondents on house phones to reaching them on cell phones. However, he acknowledged that method is more expensive.
Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist and president of Lake Research, agreed that pollsters should move to cell phones — the preferred device of younger and Hispanic voters. But she also acknowledged that polling companies, like others in the tough economy, have suffered from cost-cutting measures, which has resulted in them being “shorter on methodology.”
She also urged voters to be careful of polls made on one night because most respondents will be older, female voters.
“Do they do callbacks?” she asked, challenging those in attendance to check the polling methods before trusting the numbers.