The presidential primaries are still months away, but multiple polls picking winners are already making the rounds on social media. To make things even more confusing, polls seem to be coming out every week. There are so many of them, we couldn't possibly fact check them all. So, in a Verify twist, we're giving tips to help you verify whether the poll you're looking at is accurate.
The validity of polls in general came under fire in the 2016 Presidential election. Donald Trump winning proved many pollsters wrong… or did it?
“The 2016 polls were fine. They weren't wrong,” says Professor Casey Dominguez. She teaches political science at University of San Diego.
“When you look at polls - you do have to look at the margin of error.”
Most polls showed Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote... and she did... but where pollsters erred - is by missing a late surge of undecided voters swinging for Donald Trump in key precincts in a few states.
But statistically speaking, the polls were still accurate.
“If you're really going to pay a lot of attention to the polls,” Dr. Dominguez says, “then you should pay attention to the details. So if someone's margin of support is actually between 25 and 35 percent, it's not at 30 percent precisely.”
That said, some polls still get things really wrong. How does that happen? For one thing, it's not easy to get younger voters to participate in political phone polls.
“I don't answer my phone... do you?,” Dr. Dominguez said with a laugh.
Even if you do get younger voters to participate in a phone poll, there's no guarantee they'll, or anyone polled, will actually vote in the election you're asking them about.
“Older people and more educated people vote at higher rates than younger people and less educated people,” added Dr. Dominguez who says really this far from the primaries, the polls are just basically popularity contests. Who has name recognition.
But as we move closer to election day she suggests that before you consider any poll's results: look at how transparent the authors are. Do they tell you how many people they talked to? Are they democrats or republicans? What's the margin of error?
Information that gives you a chance to Verify if the poll is really accurate.