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EKU government professor discusses public political polling

Stu Johnson
FILE PHOTO-voting location from previous election

Pre-election public polling is a part of the lead-up to many elections. There are more than a few issues to consider with such quizzing of potential voters.

It's fair to say the governor’s race in Kentucky has probably attracted the most voter attention and with that comes interest by some in polling information. Eastern Kentucky University Government Professor Matthew Howell said polling doesn’t seem to affect voting behavior.

“So, there’s an ideal that if the polls are showing that the election is going to be close, then that would drive turnout because people say ‘oh my vote might count,’ so they’ll go vote which is a public choice theory. The guy writing the article finding was no it didn’t,” said Howell.

The most recent poll indicated the Beshear-Cameron race is neck and neck. A previous quizzing of Kentuckians showed the incumbent with a substantial lead. And then there is the makeup of those polled. Howell says, when contacted, many people may say they don’t have time for the political questioning.

“So, what pollsters have to do is take that data and then try to adjust it so that it looks more like the voting population which is different from the populations that answer surveys. And there’s a lot of choices that you can make when you are modeling the electorate,” said Howell.

Howell noted there are a variety of theories about polling responses. One is what’s called social desirability bias where people contacted say what they think the pollster is looking for. Howell added the exact opposite is possible as well. The EKU professor said polling may not affect turnout much, but in a very close race it could make a difference.

Here's more with EKU Government Professor Matthew Howell:


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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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