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The Crisis in Issue Polling

Nate Cohn: “If you do this exercise for previous elections, issue polling failures look more like the norm than the exception. There just aren’t many elections when you can read a pre-election poll story, line it up with the post-election story, and say that the pre-election poll captured the most important dynamics of the election…”

“With such a poor track record, there’s a case that ‘issue’ polling faces a far graver crisis than ‘horse race’ polling. I can imagine many public pollsters recoiling at that assertion, but they can’t prove it wrong, either. The crisis facing issue polling is almost entirely non-falsifiable — just like the issue polling itself. Indeed, the fact that the problems with issue polling are so hard to quantify is probably why problems have been allowed to fester. Most pollsters probably assume they’re good at issue polling; after all, unlike with horse race polls, they’re almost never demonstrably wrong.”

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