Are Pollsters Asking the Wrong Question?

Here’s an interesting new take on election polling from Justin Wolfers

In a recent academic research paper,  David Rothschild and I examined the results of a different kind of poll, one that asks instead: “Who do you think will win?” We find convincing evidence that this alternative approach yields more accurate forecasts. In the 345 races we studied, determining a state’s Electoral College vote, the consensus of the “who do you think will win?” poll picked the winner 81 percent of the time, compared with a hit rate of 69 percent for the standard polls of voter intentions. Roughly two-thirds of the time, we find that forecasts based on voter expectations are more accurate than those based on the usual polls of intentions.

So, what does this alternative — we think, better and more accurate — approach say about today’s race?

The latest Ipsos/Reuters Poll says that 51 percent of respondents expect President Barack Obama to win, versus 32 percent who expect a Mitt Romney victory (the remaining folks don’t have an opinion). The latest CNN/ORC poll scores it 57-36 for Obama; likewise it’s 55-35 in theABC News/Washington Post pollPew scores it 52-30; and Politico/GWU/Battleground sees it 53-38.

There’s a clear consensus: A robust majority of the American electorate expects Obama to win re-election tonight. So that’s my tip, too.

HT: Daniel Gross

About ozidar

I'm an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Faculty Research Fellow at National Bureau of Economic Research. You can follow me on twitter @omzidar.
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