A consumer's guide to the polls.

Science, technology, and life.
Oct. 28 2004 5:31 PM

A Consumer's Guide to the Polls

Read the ingredients before you buy.

(Continued from Page 1)

Don't assume that pollsters are bad if they screen for past voting behavior, pose questions before the trial heat, press undecideds, or weight votes by party, race, or sex. Their job is to reflect which candidate would win if the election were held today. If you say you're going to vote but you don't get around to it, just like last time, then the pollsters who screen you out are right. If you like Bush but end up voting against him because you think the country's going in the wrong direction, the pollsters who pose the wrong-track question before the trial heat are right. And if you fault some pollsters for failing to "balance" likely voter samples that turn out to be heavily Republican, don't blame others for weighting their numbers to match previous turnout. We can't tell you which poll to buy. All we can do is show you their ingredients so you can see what you're getting.

ABC/Washington Post

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Publishes entire questionnaire with results: Yes

Where: Go here to see the tracking poll chart, and click the link to "Today's Full Results."

Screens people out based on past failure to vote: Yes.

Likely voter test: They ask whether you have registered, are interested in the campaign, intend to vote, are voting for the first time, and know the location of your polling place.

Raises these questions before asking whom you'd vote for: None.

Presses undecideds to pick a candidate: Yes.

Average boost from pressing, last three samples: Unknown.

Disclosure of boost factor: Unpublished.

May weight your vote differently depending on your: age, sex, race, education.

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