Iowa and Polling Integrity

On late Saturday night, the release of the highly anticipated final installment of the CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll was cancelled after one survey respondent raised concern that a candidate’s name was missing when asked to name their preferred candidate. According to the Des Moines Register, the poll was cancelled out of “an abundance of caution” when at least one interview was conducted without one of the democratic candidates listed as an option. 

The poll is conducted by polling heavyweight Ann Selzer and is often referred to the “gold standard” of polling due to its historically high accuracy in picking caucus winners, and is one of only 6 polls given an A+ rating by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight. Since 1988, Selzer and Co have called 9 of 11 Iowa caucuses correctly in the poll’s final installment, including Barack Obama’s surprise victory in the 2008 caucus.


Our Take

While one interview question may not seem to the casual observer like something that could drastically alter the results, the poll’s cancellation is a reminder that top polling operations emphasize and respect how the questions in a poll are asked. Edgeworth Analytics’ Introductory Polling Course covers in-depth the various ways the format of the questions can impact polling results. We’ll walk through the polling concepts you need to know to better understand the polls you’ll see this election season.

Introduction to Polling

A Guide to the 2020 Election Season—our introductory to polling course is designed to teach you a framework to use so that you can confidently follow the polls through this election season and beyond.

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Bill Ford

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