Research

Allocating Undecided Voters in Pre-election Polling

Spencer Kimball, Esq, J.D., M.S., M.A.

Liudmila Yudina, M.A.

Research Assistant: Cole Mootz, Emerson College

Abstract: Is there a way to make pre-election polls more accurate? This paper seeks to test some of the most popular methods of allocating ‘undecided’ voters, based on the underlying theory that the allocation of undecided voters will improve the public’s expectations of election results and a pollster’s claims about accuracy. Polling literature states the most popular methods to incorporate undecided voters include asking a “leaner” question that follows a ballot test question or allocating the undecided proportionally to their vote preference. Both methods were used in this study, along with a third option in which an even-allocation, or essentially no allocation of undecided voters, took place. The study incorporates n=54 pre-election polls conducted in 20 different states, between October 26 and November 4, 2018, which were used to compare the three allocation methods. This includes an Absolute Error test (deviation between poll results and election results, Mosteller et al., 1949), a Statistical Accuracy test (absolute error compared with the poll’s margin of error, Kimball, 2017), and a Predictive Accuracy test (did the poll predict the actual election winner?). The study found no significant difference between the accuracy of the polls that included an allocation of undecided voters as compared to those that did not (χ2(2, N=161)=.200, p =.905), suggesting that allocating undecided voters does not detract from, nor add to the reliability and validity of a pre-election poll.

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2016 Presidential Statewide Polling — A Substandard Performance: A Proposal and Application for Evaluating Pre-election Poll Accuracy

Spencer Kimball, Esq, J.D., M.S., M.A.

American Behavioral Scientist

Abstract: This study implements a statistical accuracy (SA) measurement for assessing preelection poll accuracy by comparing Mosteller (1949) Method 5 (absolute difference between poll results and election results) with the poll’s margin of error (MOE) or credibility interval. The expectation is that 95% of poll results would be SA by falling between the poll’s margin of error or credibility interval and the actual margin of victory. The new measurement is described and then applied to the statewide preelection polls from the 2012 Presidential (n= 331) and 2016 Presidential (n = 539) races using n = 182 polling organizations in the last 21 days of each election cycle. This analysis finds statewide preelection polling in 2012 had a 94% SA and was not statistically different from the expected 95%, while the statewide polling in 2016 had a 77% SA and a binomial test found the distribution differs significantly from the expected 95%. There is a significant difference in SA between the two election cycles, χ2(1, N = 870) = 45.24, p < .000. The 2012 biased polls favored the Republican candidate 68% of the time; however, a binomial test found this distribution did not differ significantly from the expected 50/50 distribution, .50, p = .167 (two-tailed), suggesting this was caused by random error. In 2016, biased polls favored the Democratic candidate 90% of the time, a binomial test indicated that the proportion was higher than the expected .50, p < .000 (two-tailed), suggesting a systemic bias.

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Media Ethics and Polling Literacy: Margin of Error

Spencer Kimball, Esq, J.D., M.S., M.A.

Spencer Kimball, Director of Emerson Polling discusses how both media organizations and pollsters must do a better job in explaining the results and other uncertainties of a poll, calculate the respective margins of errors and spell out the implications for these figures in order to create a more informed electorate and to provide better expectations come election day.

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“Different Strokes for Different Folks”: Implications of Voter Micro-Targeting and Appeal in the Age of Donald Trump

Vincent Raynauld, Ph.D.

Publication: Political Marketing in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Part of the Palgrave Studies in Political Marketing and Management book series

Abstract: Despite the 2016 US Republican presidential contest being considered by many as “one unlike no others”, this chapter posits that its outcome can be attributed, at least partly, to dynamics that had affected the unfolding of previous American electoral contests. In their chapter, Raynauld and Turcotte explore contemporary political messaging and marketing tactics deployed by candidates running for the presidential nomination. As the Republican electorate was fragmented due to different factors, candidates engaged in hyper narrowcasting in order to reach out and mobilize specific groups of voters. Through the statistical analysis of polling data from key primary states, Raynauld and Turcotte conclude that by occupying narrow political “lanes”, Republican contenders

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The Viral Gap

Owen Eagan, M.A., M.B.A.

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research

Abstract: This article explores word-of-mouth communication and the gap that exists between viral content or buzz that is generated by communication professionals and its intended return on investment. This research begins with an analysis of Super Bowl commercials from 2015 to determine the extent to which the ads created buzz and the amount of sales they produced then discusses other metrics utilized to analyze the effectiveness of these ads. While Super Bowls ads are the subject of this study, this model can be used to evaluate this so-called “viral gap” in a variety of contexts. The purpose of this research is to better understand this relationship, increase awareness among communication professionals, and improve the effectiveness of communication.

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Polling on Public Policy: A Case Study in Engaging Youth Voters in the Public Opinion Process for Effective Civic Discourse

Spencer H. Kimball, Esq, MA, MS, JD; Dr. Gregory Payne, M.P.A, Ph.D.

American Behavioral Scientist

Abstract: This report details the steps involved in setting up a polling club as part of related classes in political communication, public policy, and civic engagement among college students. It also examines an extracurricular activity that provides students with the opportunity to assess public opinion on policy matters at the local, state, and national levels. Insights as well as challenges from professors and students involved in such pertinent themes as web analytics, aggregate polling, and the internal and external constraints and biases inherent in such a project will be explored, as well as the need to focus on an integrated strategic communication perspective that bridges the frequent silos of marketing, advertising, public relations, journalism, and political communication.

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