Flashpoints in Polling (Pew Research)


Can polls be trusted? This question is on the minds of seemingly everyone who follows the 2016 campaign, though it is hardly unique to this election cycle. The answer is complicated, thanks to myriad challenges facing polling and the fact that pollsters have reacted to these challenges in disparate ways.

Some polls are conducted literally overnight with convenience samples and undergo little or no adjustment. Others are painstakingly fielded for days or even weeks with robust designs and may be adjusted using cutting-edge techniques. These dramatic differences, which have been shown to affect accuracy, are often opaque to news consumers. What follows is a big-picture review of the state of polling, organized around a number of key flashpoints with links to references and research for those who want to better understand the field.