Do Poll Stories Help Voters?

By Trombly, Maria | The Quill, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Do Poll Stories Help Voters?


Trombly, Maria, The Quill


Sometimes an overreliance on numbers can steer us wrong.

Now that the first part of the election cycle is winding down, journalists are taking a short breather between the primaries and the presidential campaign itself.

Along with catching a breath, we can also take time to evaluate our coverage so far. For example, have we used polls responsibly or has our over-reliance on these props negatively affected the recent coverage of the Democratic primaries?

The media has made some mistakes, says Mark Jurkowitz, media critic for the Boston Globe.

"The punditry predictions about Howard Dean being the front-runner and that he might be almost unbeatable - which were based on a number of polls - were certainly way wrong, as we found out," he said.

But the polls weren't all to blame, he added. "In the last few days, the polls did show movement away from Dean and some dramatic movements towards Kerry."

Jurkowitz says that many political reporters frequently fall back to a "polling horse-race" type of coverage, especially during a multicandidate primary season.

"Whether accurate or not, they create some sort of empirical sense of what's going on in the race," he said. "And there's some psychological relief when reporters can look at some numbers, something solid as a snapshot of the race."

BRING ON THE BEAT REPORTERS

But there is another important reason why political coverage is often so dominated by poll numbers, says jurkowitz. And that's because, too often, it's the political reporters who cover politics.

Now that might seem to be self-evident, but Jurkowitz points out that the primaries are about more than just politics. They're also about issues such as education, the environment and international affairs. It would make sense to get other reporters involved in covering the elections, he says.

"If we're going to talk about taxes, why wouldn't business reporters be the best people to cover that aspect of the race?" he asked. "If we're going to talk about Iraq, why wouldn't Pentagon or defense reporters be the best to cover that part of the race?"

Political reporters, by comparison, often are not the best experts on the issues that a news organization might have.

Newspapers are better at this than other media outlets, he added.

"I think print does a better job of more sophisticated coverage than television does," he said. "If you look at major newspapers, you don't see stories dominated by poll numbers every single day. You get a lot of different stories."

Television, by comparison, tends more toward shorter and choppier stories, or the kind of insider-baseball analysis that can fill long hours on 24-hour cable news stations.

"Political reporters understand the language of strategy and horse race better than anything else, so they tend to gravitate to those kinds of stories and to gravitate to polls," he said. "And frankly, it's easier to cover polls than to try to get a handle on the tough issues.

As a result, he said, political coverage often revolves around an overuse of polls.

"We in the media pay attention to these polls, and the insiders pay attention to these polls, but the truth is the public is not nearly as interested in those kinds of things," he said. "They're certainly not as interested in those kinds of inside-baseball strategy things as the media."

Polls do have a value, he added.

"I personally am interested in them, when I see them, I look at them, and they have broadly tended to be accurate over time," he said. "Exit polls are pretty good because there's interesting information there about why people voted the way they did. I just think people should be more discriminating about how they use them."

DON'T TRUST THE EARLY POLLS

In particular, reporters should be more discriminating about how they use the earliest polls of a campaign, before the public has a chance to find out who the candidates really are. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Do Poll Stories Help Voters?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.