Historically, Gallup has been the gold standard in political polling. They have been asking the presidential horse-race question every election cycle since its founder correctly predicted Franklin Roosevelt’s reelection in 1936. So, their decision to stop polling the presidential primary race in 2016 has raised a big question – why?
While Gallup claims they want to focus more on issues and priorities instead of candidates, others point to underlying issues in today’s polling landscape and the difficulty pollsters have in reaching people. People are abandoning their landlines for cellphones making it more difficult to get enough participants and the right kind of participants to get accurate information. More problematic is fewer landlines means a smaller sample size so it’s tougher to talk to a truly representative sample of the public, which skews results.
There are also a number of changes going on in the industry in terms of how people can be reached, how technology can be used and just the sheer number of firms conducting political polls. For example, the Huffington Post tracks the numbers from 31 pollsters in the Republican primary.
Finally, Gallup has been under fire for their work in the 2012 cycle where they were farther off than most other polling firms – nearly five points off – and predicted a Mitt Romney Presidency. At the time, Gallup said they were going to retool their model and come back better and stronger in 2016. But as we now know – they say it’s just too hard.
Clearly, their decision won’t mean the end of horse-race questions for the 2016 primary election, as there are many other firms to fill the void. But when an institution like Gallup say’s it’s too hard to predict the outcome of presidential primaries – we may all want to take notice and be at least a little skeptical of the accuracy of other polls. Because the only poll that really counts is the one on Election Day.