Tuesday, September 2, 2008

People lie to pollsters

Something really jumped out at me in the CBS News poll that came out yesterday- the finding that 71% of respondents said they watched the Democratic convention. Given that even the last night of the convention only 24.5% of American homes were tuned in according to the Nielsen ratings (still quite an impressive showing!) it's still close to impossible that 71% watched some chunk of it even when you account for nonvoters in the population at large.

This reminded me of a finding we had in our tracking poll last week about the debates for Governor that came out so unrealistically that I didn't even bother to release it. 21% of North Carolinians claimed to have watched the debate WTVD hosted a couple weeks ago. That in and of itself is not remotely believable but the crosstabs made it seem like even more of a joke- 30% of voters in the southeastern part of the state, 25% in the northeast, and 17% in the Mountains, Charlotte, and Triad claimed to have watched the debate. The only problem with that? As far as I know it wasn't even televised outside of the Triangle! There was a replay on UNC-TV over the weekend but by then we had already finished polling. So are we to believe that about one in five voters across the state went online to watch it? Not a chance.

I think folks tell the truth about who they're supporting for various offices, but they appear to be eager to come across as more informed and engaged than they actually are when it comes to things like watching debates and conventions- not a whole lot us pollsters can do about that.

For what it's worth (not much) respondents in the Triangle who said they watched the debate thought Bev Perdue beat Pat McCrory by a margin of 54-46.


Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder why you even bother, doesn't it Tom?

If they'll lie about what they watch on the teevee, they will lie about anything....like who they plan to vote for in an election. Heh

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I watched parts of it online, not on TV, and would've answered "yes" to the question.

Tom Jensen said...

Yes, but if you're reading PPP's blog then you're in that small fraction of the population that follows state politics closely!

Jay Livingston said...

Does Nielsen measure overnights this way? Did 38 million people watch Obama and 37 million watch Palin?

Web Statistics