Should the Media Stop Polling?

During our visits to media organizations, I have gathered different perspectives from sources regarding the legitimacy of polling. The recent presidential election has shown that the media’s ability to predict the next president has diminished. Personally, I have always thought that the media is called to and is responsible for providing the public with an educated election prediction. However, the media’s apparent failure in doing so has led me to a different conclusion, and I have found that many other major commenters on the press have strong opinions on this topic as well.

Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute described the evolution of the news, noting specifically that the media has lost its ability to predict who will win the presidential election. I asked Tom whether or not he believes the media should keep polling in order to give the public an election prediction, and he said the media should “give up quantitative polling and focus on interviewing people to get a better indication of how the public feels about candidates”. While I find this to be a near impossible endeavor, I agree with Tom that the media should step away from its role of polling so that it does not misinform the public, which can potentially create a skewed public perception of the election and candidates.

At the Pew Research Center, I asked Michael Barthel about the organization’s surveying methods and how they relate to the way the media conducts polling. I was curious because according to the recent election, the media’s polling is inaccurate. Despite the Pew Research Center’s credibility, this potential similarity in methodology leads me to question the validity of the organization’s studies. Michael said that although he is not the expert on the Pew Research Center’s methodology, he can attest that the organization is “very careful” in accounting for potential biases. Contrary to what other organizations have mentioned in regard to polling, Michael claimed that “the media’s polling was consistent with the election result, but the Electoral College was not considered enough in media publications”. I found his perspective interesting due to the fact that arguably the most popular and credible news source, the New York Times, predicted that Hillary Clinton had an 83% chance of winning the presidency and yet Donald Trump is to be sworn in as our 45th president.

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  1. #1 by caseylmcclure on January 23, 2017 - 11:47 pm

    This is something I was very interested in as well. Before the final election results had been presented I was completely sure that Hillary Clinton had won, because that was what the media was telling me, based off of their polls. The media gave millions of Americans false hope that the person they were trying elect was going to win, and then come election day, something else entirely happens. I would be interested to see if polling were to stop, how the next election were to work.

  2. #2 by peterwritessite on January 24, 2017 - 12:13 am

    I thought this was a very interesting piece. I’m glad that you got the opportunity to really apply this trip to your major. Polling is where the media and politics really intertwine. And this last election has thrown everything into question. I think it was very smart of you to continue asking these questions of these outlets and organizations.

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