Opinion polls: Taking the national pulse, or trying to
“…The random sample is the gold standard of polling: If a sample is chosen randomly from a population, that sample will have the characteristics of that population, within a margin. When I began in the industry in the 1980s, we were able to get excellent, if not perfect, random samples through random-digit dialling. Almost every Canadian household had a landline phone, creating potential access to almost the entire population. People were interested in answering our surveys, especially about politics and public affairs, and response rates were high. We had ideal conditions for practising our trade.
The first warning signs came in the decade of the nineties, when response rates started to drop. The following decades saw the growth of recorded messages, call display and cellphones, and further declines in response rates as the novelty of being wooed by pollsters wore off. I recall response rates of up to 80 per cent in the phone polls we did in the eighties, then dropping to the 40-per-cent to 50-per-cent range a decade later. Now, traditional telephone surveys (with live interviewers) are getting response rates of about 10 per cent or less.”
Vote. That is all.