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Our pollsters should learn from US fiasco

OPINION surveying is probably most advanced in the United States where it has long been a key part of the political scene. In the last US presidential election, however, nearly all surveys appeared to be off the mark. Most predicted a Hillary Clinton win – one said she had an 80 percent chance of winning the Electoral College vote. But when the votes were counted, Donald Trump had won.

All sorts of studies and analyses are now coming up to explain the polling debacle.

One is that the surveys were concentrating on the popular vote for the entire country, when they should have focused more on the state-by-state vote. As it turned out, Clinton appears to have won the popular vote, but Trump won the Electoral College vote – which is the one that counts. The surveys should have given much more attention to the opinions within the states of the union, especially the so-called battleground states.

Another possible cause of the election survey fiasco was a possible late shift in the thinking of the voters, especially after the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a report that cast Clinton in a bad light.

Still another possibility is that many American survey respondents did not tell the truth when interviewed by pollsters. Because of Trump’s crass language and behavior during the campaign and in the past, many voters did not want to be openly identified with him, but they believed in his issues.

Opinion surveys have also become an important part of Philippine elections. Surveys are helpful to both candidates and voters. In between polls, they are used to gauge public opinion on the administration’s programs and performance.

They help officials make the right decisions.

We hope that our own Filipino pollsters will learn some lessons from the ill fate that befell American survey organizations in the last elections. The miscalculations of the US survey groups – the ill presumptions they made, their failure to consider the fluidity of events, along with the possibility of respondents deliberately misleading surveyors – could also be made by our own Filipino survey organizations, unless they take definite efforts to counter them.

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