Do polls really matter in elections?

October 1, 2012 8:37:51 PM PDT
President Barrack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have one more day to prepare for their first debate. Romney is finishing up his debate practice in Boston. The president is spending a few days on debate prep at a resort outside Las Vegas. The two will hold debate domestic policy Wednesday night at the University of Denver.

The president and Romney are in a virtual tie in the latest CNN poll, but right now, polls in Colorado show Obama leading Romney. The website Real Clear Politics took an average of all the polls in Colorado and found that President Obama leads Romney 49 to 46 percent. But many Romney supporters say these numbers are skewed.

So we went to several political insiders asking the questions: What do polls really reveal? Are they skewed? And should they matter more to voters or campaigns?

On Election Day, these are the only polls that matter. But ahead of the first debate, it seems another type of poll is occupying a lot of people's minds.

"A poll merely is a snapshot in time," said Adam Harris, a political consultant with Horizon Strategies.

Harris says don't look at one snapshot for an answer. Instead, look at a bunch of them, especially when it comes to presidential politics.

"A number of the different polls are showing the same trend. Different numbers, but they're all trending toward the president," Harris said.

That is true in Colorado, where ahead of Wednesday's debate Romney and his wife are campaigning.

"I think it means more to a campaign than it does to a voter. For a campaign it's a way to measure where you are as opposed to where you need to be," said Keir Murray with KLM Public Affairs.

But some would suggest that state polling might be biased when you consider that nationally the race between Romney and the president is much closer than it is in any of the nine battleground states.

"The art of polling is radically changing now," said Bob STein, a political science professor at rice and an expert pollster.

Stein says between automated phone polling and web based advances, the differences may not be poor polling but rather a reflection of a demographic shift in those key states. It's a shift that makes them swing states to begin with.

"Polling has become a really good science, has proven to be really effective at not only predicting outcomes, but maybe importantly for also understanding how and when voters make their minds up," Stein said.

That brings us back to the debate and how it could be a factor in that, reflected in the only polling that really matters.

"It's on the subject that is probably going to decide this election and that's domestic policy, which translates into the economy, which translates into jobs," KTRK political consultant Peter Roussel said.

And Eyewitness News' Tom Abrahams will be in Colorado for the first presidential debate.


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