This is an important statement, but is it true? Let’s dig into the details of why this might be the case.
First of all surveys or polling employ a sample size too small to fairly represent the 331 million citizens of the United States. Many polls use a sample size of 1,000 people, however, this number would only be representative of the population if the sample was drawn at random. Obtaining a properly random sample from a population of 331 million is extremely challenging if not impossible.
The reduced accuracy of national surveys can be attributed to several variables. One reason is that surveying a huge country like the United States makes it more difficult to obtain a representative sample of the population. Convenience samples are frequently the basis for national surveys, which is another aspect that can introduce bias. Lastly, a high degree of aggregation is frequently used in national surveys, which can mask significant disparities in public opinion among various demographic groupings.
For example, a national poll might show that 50% of Americans support a particular policy. However, this number could mask the fact that 60% of people under the age of 30 support the policy, and only 40% of people over 30 support it. This variation in public opinion between different groups of people is often lost in national polls.
As a result, national polls are more likely to be inaccurate than polls conducted at the state or local level. For example, a study by the American Association for Public Opinion Research found that national polls were the least accurate in predicting the outcome of presidential elections.
The Pew Research Center says: “You have roughly the same chance of being polled as anyone else living in the United States. This chance, however, is only about 1 in 170,000 for a typical Pew Research Center survey. To obtain that rough estimate, we divide the current adult population of the U.S. by the typical number of adults we recruit to our survey panel each year. We draw a random sample of addresses from the U.S. Postal Service’s master residential address file. We recruit one randomly selected adult from each of those households to join our survey panel. This process gives every non-institutionalized adult a known chance of being included. The only people who are not included are those who do not live at a residential address (e.g., adults who are incarcerated, living at a group facility like a rehabilitation center, or living in a remote area without a standard postal address).”
However, a 2019 Pew Research Center research found that 58% of Americans have never been invited to take part in a nationwide survey. This indicates that the vast majority of Americans have never had the chance to participate in a national survey and have their opinions heard. This implies that all surveys are unreliable even before the findings are known. How dependable can the results be if just 42% of respondents take part and there’s a margin of error of + or – 3 or 4 percent?
That is not quite a rhetorical question. A poll’s accuracy should be influenced by several elements, including the sample size, the sampling method, and the wording of the questions. However, one of the most important factors is the representativeness of the sample. A poll is only as accurate as the sample it is based on.
If 42% of Americans have never been asked to participate in a national poll, then the sample for that poll is not representative of the population as a whole. This is because the sample is underrepresenting a large segment of the population.
And the numbers get even worse when you keep in mind that there are upwards of 30 polls on the same subject or asking the same questions. And if 58% of Americans have never been asked to take a national poll, that means something else is at play.
Typically, surveys have a number of questions. if only surveys that are finished are taken into account. The same individuals must then be contacted again for the next surveys. especially when the same questions are asked in a fresh poll that is released once a week or at least once a month.
Perhaps the best that can be said for polls is that it may be necessary for survey researchers to get in touch with the same people more than once for a variety of reasons. Monitoring shifts in public opinion over time is one justification. Researchers can gain a sense of how public opinion is changing on a given issue by regularly surveying the same people. But, that only monitors the same group of respondents, which is flawed because, at best, it is a survey of only 42% of the country.
To top it off, the press and media are aware of the limitations of polls. And that polls can be inaccurate, and they can be used to manipulate public opinion. Some polling organizations have admitted to falsifying the poll numbers in the 2020 election. A Vanderbilt University research study found that Pre-election polls in 2020 had the largest errors in 40 years.
This is a serious issue, as it gives Americans another reason not to trust polls because it makes it impossible for voters to make informed decisions.
There are a number of reasons why polling organizations might fudge the numbers. The obvious is political bias, another is that they may be under pressure to produce results that are consistent with expectations. For example, if a polling organization is known for producing accurate results, it may be under pressure to produce results that do not show significant changes in public opinion.
Another reason why polling organizations might fudge the numbers is that they may be trying to make their results more appealing to clients. For example, a polling organization may be hired by a political candidate to conduct a poll. The polling organization may then fudge the numbers to make it look like the candidate is more popular than they are.
Finally, polling organizations may fudge the numbers because they are simply incompetent. Polling is a complex science, and it is possible to make mistakes. If a polling organization does not have the proper expertise or resources, it may be more likely to make mistakes that can lead to inaccurate results.
For a poll to be trusted, it is important to have a high participation rate and a low margin of error. A participation rate of 42% is relatively low, and a margin of error of 3-4% is relatively high. This means that there is a significant chance that the poll results are not representative of the American public as a whole.
To be comfortable that the American public is split 50/50 on an issue, the poll would need to have a participation rate of at least 58%. This would reduce the margin of error to 3% or less, making the poll results more reliable. Keep in mind that Pew Research states that only 42% of Americans have ever been polled.
That is why polls are meaningless and serve no social redeeming value.