Volume 6, Number 6, October 16, 2000
Many people are
closely following the political polls during the
final weeks preceding this important election. But
how do these polls actually work?
Polls are surveys of a relatively small number of people compared to the actual number who will vote. They are an attempt to determine who may actually win an election in advance of the final vote.
Let’s say that 100 million people are expected to vote in the general election. If 100 people are asked for their opinions, each respondent represents a million voters. Obviously, the results of such a poll are not very reliable. The more people surveyed, the more meaningful are the results.
Pollsters have various ways of making their polls more accurate. They try to find a representative variety of people to question. For example, they look for people with similar backgrounds and from similar regions to those of all the voters.
Pollsters also ask questions that try to determine how many people who support each candidate will actually vote. If a candidate has a higher percentage of enthusiastic supporters than his opponent, he has a better chance of winning than the simple numbers might suggest. Pollsters may only count those who they consider to be “likely voters.”
If we look at polls that are taken over time, we can often detect a trend. We can tell if a candidate is gaining or losing support when we compare the most recent poll to earlier ones.
Polls often ask potential (those who could be) voters what they like or dislike about each candidate. The campaigns use those results to help them decide which issues to stress or which positions to clarify. They can also determine which voters to target with their messages.
Because no two people are the same, polls can never be perfect predictors of the real vote. But they can give important clues as to where things may be heading. At the very least, if you like politics, polls can be great entertainment.
Solve the puzzle using the highlighted words from the article.
1. Matters of discussion
Puzzle created by Crossword Compiler.
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