The Numbers Game: Political Polling

Air Date: 02/01/2020
Source:
NBC News Learn
Creator:
Steve Kornacki
Air/Publish Date:
02/01/2020
Event Date:
02/01/2020
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2020
Clip Length:
00:02:44

NBC News National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki breaks down how polling works ahead of the 2020 New Hampshire Primary.

The Numbers Game- Political Polling 

STEVE KORNACKI, anchor: 

Hi everybody, Steve Kornacki here. I’m a National Political Correspondent at NBC News. And I’m at what we like to call the big board. This is where we track all the numbers, all the statistics, all the results, all the data that you need to follow and to understand the 2020 race for president. 

It’s going to be a big one this year, in fact, as you know, it’s already underway. The Iowa Caucuses we’re the first big test for Democrats as they try to pick a candidate the run against Donald Trump. Up next after Iowa, New Hampshire, you’re going to have Nevada, South Carolina, a lot to come as the Democrats try to pick their candidate. You know, one thing that I’m always looking at here on the board, we’re going to be talking about a lot going forward, it is the polls. 

What do the polls tell us? You see, these are all sorts of different media organizations here, NBC News is one of them. We take polls, we’re not the only ones to take polls, just about all these national media outlets are paying for and commissioning their own polls because we want to find out, and the folks that watch us, the folks who read newspapers want to know who’s winning, who’s losing, who’s up, who’s down, who’s got the momentum, who’s falling back. All these sort of ads you see, all the sort of campaign tactics you’re watching from these candidates, we want to know if they’re working or not. And so, one way to find out, the best way to find out until you get to Election Day is to take a poll. 

So, what goes into getting a poll that you can actually look at and say, “Yeah, that’s reliable that’s a pretty good indicator of what’s going on.” Well, how they do it generally, the traditional way here, you’re looking at what they call a call center here. You’ve got all sorts of operators, they’ve got computer screens, they’ve got phones. And they’re just making sort of random calls all across a state, maybe all across the country, depends if it’s a state poll is it a national poll. And what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to make contact with enough voters to get what they call a quality sample. So, if it’s a poll in New Hampshire, you don’t have to call every house in New Hampshire, you don’t have to talk to every voter in New Hampshire, that’d be a little too much work. But you need to get a representative sample of the state, probably 500, 700, 800, something like that people who actually make contact with. And then, they actually have to be sort of representative demographically of the state. What do we mean by that? Men, women, have some balance there, have some racial balance, something that matches the demographics of the state. So, you’re trying to get a sample that kind of matches the demographics of the state or the country that you’re trying to poll. 

We’re going to be polling all summer and all fall, how’s that Democrat doing against Trump, who’s winning, who’s losing, what’s working for these candidates, what’s not working for these candidates. Those are some of the things a poll can tell you. And of course, I’ll be here at the board, all the new numbers, all the new stats we get, I’ll be breaking them down here. I hope you check us out. For more Decision 2020 coverage from NBC News Learn. 

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