MLDP Recap: 2012 Pollapollooza with Kate Phillips

Read an MLDP Participant’s account of a campus lecture co-sponsored by ISTS, the Dartmouth Institute for Health Care Policy & Clinical Practice, the Departments of Film & Media Studies and Sociology, and the Rockefeller Center. For more information, about MLDP, click here. 

On the 27th of February, Dartmouth College invited Kate Phillips, the New York Times 2012 Polling Editor, to campus to give a public lecture on polling, politics, and elections. 

Phillips began her presentation on reminiscing on her job at the New York Times this past year. “In October and November, we had some two dozen polls a week,” she said, “Mostly irrelevant.” Noting the fact that most presidential elections have been decided in a select few battleground states, she emphasized the importance of focusing on a key battleground polls and not national polls.

Phillips attributed Obama’s success against Republican Mitt Romney in the election to his superior polls and data mining team. She noted that the Obama campaign engaged in a strategy entitled micro targeting that the Obama campaign of 2008 first started. Focused in on only battleground polls and not national polls, this multi-layered approach kept a close watch in percentage dips. When Obama’s numbers were down, that state was flooded with advertising.

Referring to the overwhelming number of national polls in the 2012 presidential election, “Individual polls are supposed to be predicative,” Phillips said, “They are a snapshot in time.” When the margin of error exceeds the percentage gap between the two candidates, the national polls do not really offer either candidate any useful information. In addition, national polls do not have enough people to breakdown participants in the poll into nicely fit categories, like an 18 to 28 age group. State polls have this ability. 

In conclusion, Phillips talked about the future of polling noting that as of the numbers in 2012, 32 percent of adults and 40 percent of children only have a cell phone. ROBO polling will virtually be ignoring the young, minorities, and urban populations in 2016 if pollsters do not develop new methods of reaching out to a number of demographics. Her recommendation were shorter polls, for one, and a way of polling people online as most people in today’s worth spend a bulk of their time there.

- Written by Luke Decker ’15, MLDP Winter 2013 Participant