A note about that poll showing the race tied Skip to content

A note about that poll showing the race tied

Are you freaking out over the latest Emerson poll? Take a breath, and let’s dig into it.

2 min read
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

A recent Emerson College poll showed the Kentucky governor’s race as a tie between Andy Beshear and Daniel Coleman. Immediately, everyone’s hair was on fire.

Well, I’m here to provide a little fire extinguisher.

Polling Kentucky is hard – we all know that. And, it’s gotten harder over the past few years, as more and more people have abandoned their landline, and refuse to answer calls on their cell phones if they don’t know the caller.

And if you want to really analyze the impact and validity of a poll, you can’t stop with the top line results. You have to dig into the cross-tabs to see what the top line is based on. And that’s what I did with this poll.

First of all, let’s look at how the poll was taken. Here’s the various ways Emerson got to 1,000 respondents:

Mode Count Percentage
Landline 541 54.1
Panel 337 33.7
Email 16 1.6
Cell 105 10.5

From their website: “Data was collected by contacting a list of landlines via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and emails provided by Aristotle, cell phones via SMS-to-web, along with an online panel of voters provided by Centiment.”

So, over half the responses came via landline phones. To me, that immediately makes the results less reliable. In today’s world, who has landline phones? Older adults. And how do older adults tend to vote? Conservative.

What ages, then, make up the poll respondents?

Age range Count Percentage
18-29 years 117 11.7
30-39 years 155 15.5
40-49 years 160 16.0
50-59 years 210 21.0
60-69 years 180 18.0
70 or more years 180 18.0

Over half the respondents are over 50. Emerson would say that that matches turnout results, and that’s probably correct. But I’m not sure that past turnout is necessarily a good gauge of what is going to happen in this election.

In short, I think the latest Emerson poll is an outlier. I think the makeup of the respondents, with such a large reliance on landline phone respondents, is misleading. And I think Beshear has more support than this poll is showing.

But guess what? We’ll know for sure in just a few days. So forget all the polls, and go vote, no matter what.


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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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