WMU News

Presidential race will go down to the wire

Nov. 1, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- There's good reason to believe that this year's presidential race will be a close one--the polls say so.

Though political polls change over time, they are a very good way of assessing public opinion at a given moment, says Dr. Chester B. Rogers, a WMU professor of political science and expert on political polling.

"I think they're usually very accurate, to within two or three percentage points," Rogers says. "I think what people miss sometimes is that they are accurate for the moment that they were taken. And if something significant happens, that will change people's perceptions and thus the polling results will change."

Rogers says polls reflect those changes in public opinion, sometimes leading people to believe that the polls are inaccurate because they fluctuate over time. "Sometimes people say, 'Well, how can they be accurate because they change so much all the time?' The reason they change so much is because people's perceptions change."

Rogers says this year's race is extremely close and probably will be determined by late-deciding voters.

"It would be hard for it to be closer," Rogers says. "It depends on which way undecided voters start breaking."

Rogers says most analysts believe Gore has somewhat of an advantage in appealing to undecided voters, but that advantage has yet to materialize. He also says this could be one of those rare years when one candidate wins by getting the Electoral College votes needed, but actually receives fewer votes.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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