Be Wary of Late N.H. Polls
Brown, Peter A., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
View the New Hampshire polls you'll be seeing in the final hours before the voting occurs with a large grain of salt. And it's not because the pollsters doing the surveys aren't good at their jobs. Neither does it mean they won't be right.
But the very short window between the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary makes it almost impossible to do the kind of quality polling that professionals would like.
Iowans caucused on Thursday. New Hampshire voters goes to the polls on Tuesday. Historically, the Iowa results have had an effect - - sometimes major -- on Granite State returns. Generally candidates who do well in Iowa see their fortunes improve in New Hampshire and vice versa.
But that was when there was a minimum of eight days between the two contests. This time, the interval is half that. For practical purposes, the time for polling will be very narrow -- at most, three nights.
Polls that come out tonight or in the Monday morning newspapers will reflect at most three days of polling. Those that come out Tuesday morning could reflect four full nights.
Pollsters like to have larger periods to poll. Part of the discipline of the field is that once a random sample is drawn, good pollsters make every effort to call back the telephone numbers that did not answer, rather than call extra ones, in order to preserve the randomness and integrity of the original sample.
Fewer nights of calling mean fewer opportunities to get the people who were not home the first or second times they were called. Since it would be worthless to poll before the Iowa results were available, Friday was the first day pollsters could be in the field. But Friday is the least efficient evening to poll. Overall, fewer people are at home, and certain demographic groups are far less likely to be available to answer their telephones. …