Today's post is from David W. Moore and George F. Bishop. Moore is a Senior Fellow with the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. He is a former Vice President of the Gallup Organization and was a senior editor with the Gallup Poll for thirteen years. He is author of The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls. Bishop is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Public Opinion & Survey Research at the University of Cincinnati. His most recent book is The Illusion of Public Opinion: Fact and Artifact in American Public Opinion Polls.
Every year, poll watchers are confronted with poll results and commentary that defy either logic or science, often raising questions about the very utility of polls. Typically, the problems are not with the method of conducting polls, but with the pollsters themselves -- as they focus on what they believe is entertaining and appealing to the audience rather than an accurate reflection of public opinion. In the process, pollsters can manipulate public opinion or write commentary that makes a mockery of what the public is really thinking.
With this article, veteran pollsters, authors and political scientists George F. Bishop and David W. Moore issue their Second Annual Top Ten "Dubious Polling" Awards. These awards are intended to mark for posterity some of the most risible and outrageous pronouncements by polling organizations during the previous year.
Each award is ranked, from a low of one set of crossed fingers to a high of five sets. Pollsters generally know in their hearts when all is not right with their polls, but they (figuratively) cross their fingers and hope that no one notices anything amiss. The five crossed-fingers icon is the ultimate in wishful thinking, perhaps the equivalent of football's "Hail Mary pass" for the truly untrustworthy poll.