Utica-Based Pollster Says the Industry Has to Use Technology to Get Accurate Results

Nov 19, 2020

Utica-based pollster John Zogby believes outdated sampling methods are the reason for inaccurate results.
Credit WAER screenshot

A Utica-based pollster says the close results of the presidential election illustrate the inaccuracies of polls which had predicted a larger margin of victory for Joe Biden. John Zogby told a virtual audience at Syracuse University’s Thursday Morning Roundtable that a heavy reliance on outmoded telephone polling led to poor sampling and low response rates.

He says that was reflected in the misleading results from mainstream network and university polls. Zogby says they need to adopt new methods. 

“For the most part, the industry has to shift to online technology. Ninety-four percent of likely voters in the United States have internet access.”

Conversely, Zogby says response rates from landlines are in the single digits. He was one of the earliest adopters of online polling, which he says bothered traditional pollsters. Another problem, he says, is the tendency to oversample democrats. That can skew results which explains the predicted double-digit lead for Biden early on. Zogby treats party identification as a lead variable in his polls.

“My industry needs to pay much closer attention to political party identification. For me, it’s a demographic.”

Even as polls try to become more accurate and improve their sampling, Zogby believes voters should not solely rely on them. He reminds us that polls as capturing a moment in time, rather than a true prediction of the outcome on election night.