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Are Blacks and Latinos Undercounted in the Polls?

With November fast approaching, the accuracy of voter metrics is growing more important to both media outlets and campaign planners. Keeping track of poll scores will be a high priority for American media as they try to predict the outcome of the presidential election, but the results of these polls often go unquestioned.

Keli Goff of The Root asks specifically, do the polls undercount President Barack Obama’s support?

Standard political-polling institutions still conduct many of their polls via landline phones, a medium that makes a large percentage of young Americans unreachable. The reason for this is the much lower cost of landline phone number lists in comparison to cell phone lists. In an era where more than 50 percent of Americans ages 25-29 live in homes without a landline, polling practices do little to reflect the change.

“The media wants the best of both worlds,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told The Root, speaking of the media outlets who pay for polls to be conducted. “They want the best data, but they want to keep costs manageable.”

The preference of cell phones over landlines is a trend not exclusive to young adults either, as many people of color and lower income families choose to use only their cell phones in lieu of grounded home phones. Paleologos mentioned that his research center’s most recent poll only contacted 35 percent of its subjects via cellphones. Most polls fall in the range of 20 to 25 percent.

Since most people of color and young adult traditionally those in favor of democratic candidates, in this case President Obama. With these major groups left out of the polls it is likely that the numbers referenced by news sources are not showing the full voting picture. While this may not affect the results the choices voters make, the media may be in for a few surprises when the votes are tallied.


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