Only some opinions count
Two-thirds of 853 state-level polls were in 11 states
January 15, 2013
PUBLIC OPINION SURVEYS, done well, offer people an opportunity to speak to their leaders in an organized way. But the hunt for Electoral College votes tends to put all the focus of presidential campaigns on the opinions of residents in a handful of contested states, leaving no opportunity for residents of less competitive states to have their voices heard.
Polling patterns highlight the campaigns’ narrow focus. Between the final Republican primary contest on June 26 and Election Day, 853 state-level presidential polls were conducted where the results were released to the public, according to the Huffington Post Pollster’s website. A total of 692,000 interviews were done as part of these polls. (National polls were not included in this analysis.)
Two-thirds of the state-level polls were conducted in 11 battleground states. Ohio residents were polled the most (90 times), followed by Florida (80), Virginia (64), Colorado (50), and Wisconsin (49). In seven states, including South Carolina, Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, no state-level presidential polls were conducted at all. The winner in those seven states was seen as a foregone conclusion, making the opinions of the states’ 17.5 million residents unimportant.
By contrast, the smallest of the swing states (New Hampshire) was polled 37 times. A total of 25,609 interviews were conducted in New Hampshire, the equivalent of one interview for every 51 residents.
The polling pattern would likely be even more concentrated but for a group of states whose presidential preferences were only collected as an afterthought to another competitive race, such as governor or senator. For example, 26 presidential polls were conducted in Massachusetts despite a projected blowout win by President Obama. The presidential queries piggybacked on polls taken in the Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren Senate race.