WMU News

The importance of being polled

Sept. 8, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- The phone rings and the voice on the other end asks if you are a registered voter and if you are, which candidate you will vote for. While many of us may be tempted to reply 'none of your business,' the answers to those questions are pivotal in the progress of a candidate's political campaign, according to a WMU political scientist.

"Polling is how candidates can determine issues important to the voters and how they are perceived by those voters," explains Dr. Chester B. Rogers, a professor of political science and an expert on political polling.

While most voters are familiar with the nightly poll results run on television news during a campaign, Rogers says that the object of a candidate's polling efforts is different.

"Initially, polling by a candidate is used to try to match up the candidate and voters on issues they have in common and to find out what issues the voters are most concerned about so that the candidate can address those in the campaign. They also use it to determine which other public figures are viewed favorably and who may be used for positive influence during the campaign," he says.

During a presidential campaign, the candidates' pollsters can be expected to conduct samples every day to get an insight on how the candidate is doing. How they conduct the sample is crucially important, says Rogers, to ensure that the pollsters get accurate information.

"They can conduct a random sample with as little as 800 people, but they have to know the percentage of male, female and other characteristics to be able to then make that sample match the characteristics of the general population," Rogers explains. "In cases where the sample doesn't accurately reflect the makeup of the American population, they have a formula to convert the data to make it more accurate. It's essential you have good information or the candidate may take his or her campaign down the wrong path."

Rogers, who has developed courses on the politics of Congress and political campaigning, is the co-author of "The Electoral Politics Dictionary."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400