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How accurate are election polls?

By Colleen O'Brien, Reporter / Weekend Anchor, colleeno@kxly.com
Published On: Nov 07 2012 12:01:20 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 05 2012 08:30:17 PM CST

SPOKANE, Wash. -

Throughout elections season, polls give us the best indication of how voters are feeling about candidates and about issues.

For instance, in Washington State, a KCTS and University of Washington poll shows voters will likely approve R-74, and give gay couples the right to marry, and I-502, which will legalize the sale of marijuana.

But is that true? And how accurate can that poll be if the votes haven't been tallied?

“I tend not to give too much credence to any one poll,” Michael Artime said.

Instead, Artime, a Whitworth University Political Science professor, suggests we find our poll information from sources that aggregate polls – or average the finding.

Artime uses Realclearpolitics.com, where multiple polls are combined to find an average. There, President Barack Obama is ahead of Mitt Romney by less than a percentage point.

In the race for Washington's Governor, Jay Inslee holds a one point lead over Rob McKenna.

“Some of these that were averaged in here, these were taken quite awhile ago so things could have changed,” Artime said.

Polls only show you who might be winning or losing, which is why, Artime said, they can be persuasive to voters.

“There's a reason why, you know, the network news sites won't be releasing polls until a certain time, because they know to release polls on election day could influence whether people turn out to vote,” Artime said.

Artime's bottom line is that polls should be used as conversation pieces, and not as a voter's guide, and to do your research about the candidates and the polls.

“We're just so concerned with who's winning that we forget to ask the question 'why?'” Artime said.

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