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Pooling the polls over an election campaign*

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Poll results vary over the course of a campaign election and across polling organisations, making it difficult to track genuine changes in voter support. I present a statistical model that tracks changes in voter support over time by pooling the polls, and corrects for variation across polling organisations due to biases known as ‘house effects'. The result is a less biased and more precise estimate of vote intentions than is possible from any one poll alone. I use five series of polls fielded over the 2004 Australian federal election campaign (ACNielsen, the ANU/ninemsn online poll, Galaxy, Newspoll, and Roy Morgan) to generate daily estimates of the Coalition's share of two-party preferred (2PP) and first preference vote intentions. Over the course of the campaign there is about a 4 percentage point swing to the Coalition in first preference vote share (and a smaller swing in 2PP terms), that begins prior to the formal announcement of the election, but is complete shortly after the leader debates. The ANU/ninemsn online poll and Morgan are found to have large and statistically significant biases, while, generally, the three phone polls have small and/or statistically insignificant biases, with ACNielsen and (in particular) Galaxy performing quite well in 2004.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Stanford University

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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