Polling expert explains the numbers confusion leading up to first primaries

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Steve Raby has worked for two U.S. Senators and has even run for Congress himself, though he didn’t win.  Raby is now head of a public relations firm and heavily involved in the polling process.  This week Steve Raby stopped by WHNT News 19 to talk about what we can expect from polling this voting season.

It is election season, and that seems to mean that there is a new poll by someone put out every day, but they don’t all say the same information.  Steve Raby explains that, “Well, all polls should be taken with a grain of salt, and depending on the time period away from the election, five or six weeks, it probably should be a bag of salt, not a grain of salt.”

How can we as voters make sense of these polls when they are all different?  Raby says that,   “You have to look at the statistical validity of those polls and consider number one, was it done by a reputable group?  Number two, what’s the source?  Was it done by a candidate?  If it’s for a candidate, assured a candidate is going to try to put a best light on the numbers, and maybe using the poll not for where they are in the race, but to run their numbers up.  I think all polls, you need to consider the source, who did them, and then there were the questions that were asked.  All polls it depends on what was asked.  It’s commonly called a push poll.  If I were a candidate and someone did a push poll, if you knew that Raby had voted 17 times to raise taxes, would you support him in running for the county commission, or something of that nature.  And that would impact the questions. So I think you consider the source. If the media is doing it, versus the campaign, I would pay more attention to it.”

Many of the polls lately about who is leading where, have been done by legitimate organizations, but they seem to change daily.  Is the voting public that indecisive?  Or is it just who they’re asking?  Steve Raby thinks that, “Well, it’s a combination of all of that. What you can’t see in most polls is, if it’s a legitimate poll for a campaign, or candidate, what we try to determine is not just who will support [the candidate], but who is locked down on him?  Who is going to support him, regardless of what happens? Who is leaning toward him, but may be supporting other candidates? So it depends on how a pollster categorizes those people. It may be valid, it’s just that I lumped all the people who said, absolutely I’m voting for [him], or I might vote for [him] as a number. ”

View our entire conversation with Steve Raby here in three parts: