The Complete Idiot's Guide To Reading Political Polls

Oct 15, 2012

A poll conducted in 1997 showed Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly leading incumbent John Rowland by four points. 

On the strength of this, Kennelly was persuaded by party leaders to give up her seat and take on the Governor. Other possible challengers were persaded to move aside. Kennelly embarked on a race that had, to use the New York Times's phrase, "a devastating trajectory." She lost by a 63 to 35 ratio, a terrible, terrible blowout for a popular and accomplished politician. The lesson?  We use polls not only to predict elections but to make plans,  and polls are imperfect. Nobody really knows what happened in that 1997 poll. One theory was that Kennelly's campaign had the curious effect of draining support from her. Or maybe the poll was wrong.  Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.