Every election cycle, voters are bombarded with polls reporting the movement of candidates like stocks in the eyes of public opinion.
But unlike the New York Stock Exchange, which regulates the prices of stocks, polling is left very much up to individual organizations, marketing firms, and joint research groups, all of which employ different methodologies, have different goals, and acquire vastly different results.
The public is then left to sift through the hundreds of polls that are published daily, leaving Americans searching for accuracy and truth in an era where shock headlines are often the norm.
Here, questsin has pored over the top competing names and organizations in the field to help readers navigate the lay of the land when it comes political polling.
questsin has ranked these pollsters after considering factors such as accuracy, historic and current media reputations, number of polls published, as well as frequency and longevity, in an effort to determine exactly which pollsters are the best in providing reliable and accurate pictures of election predictions and prevailing public opinion.
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This methodology and criteria were developed to prevent over-weighting polling groups that may have successfully predicted 100 percent of races, but only for a single election, and to attempt to apply a set of objective guidelines to the ultimately subjective task of deciding which pollsters are truly the “best.”
Here are questsin’s Top 25 Pollsters in America:
1. Marist College — A staple since 1978 and one of the first university polling groups, Marist is accurate, relatively unbiased, and has recent success to add to its historical reputation as the gold standard. Marist enjoys popularity and produces a large number of election polls each year, successful predicting an astounding 85 percent of them, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings, which analyzes the firms’ accuracy and methodology.
2. Mason-Dixon Polling — Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., rumored to have a slight Republican bias, takes itself just as seriously as most of the country does. Boasting a presence in all 50 states, conducting frequent polls and voter surveys, and boasting a success rate of more than 85 percent in election predictions, this organization sets the industry standard for quality polling.
3. Emerson College — Accurate? Check. Unbiased? Double Check. Reputable? You bet. Emerson has been making headlines for years thanks to its outstanding IVR polling, and has even received a shout-out from the president for its recent success and perceived accuracy.
4. University of New Hampshire — Unlike the university polling groups further up the list, University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center is relatively new. Nevertheless, the group has already established a reputation for a Democratic bias, but a noteworthy 85 percent race accuracy.
5. The Ohio Poll — Sure, the polling is limited to only adult residents of Ohio. And sure, the polling is only done via telephone, but the University of Cincinnati pollster has unmatched accuracy, predicting statewide elections since 1981 with a success rate above 90 percent.
6. Rasmussen Reports — Founded in 2003, Ramussen Reports has quickly become a cornerstone in the world of election polling given its solid track record and accuracy in predicting the 2004 and 2008 elections. Heavily criticized for what some consider to be a Republican bias, the group continues to put out heavily publicized polls frequently, making it resilient in the face of continued criticism.
7. Quinnipiac University — Many organizations on this list conduct polling for profit. Quinnipiac deserves some credit for refusing to take on clients or outside funding, meaning Quinnipiac polls for the sake of polling. While that alone does not give it any advantage on this list, its reputation, aversion to bias, and a very respectable 85 percent success rate in predicting elections means it still claims its spot as a premier organization in polling.
8. Investors Business Daily/TIPP — One of the only major pollsters to successful predict Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, IBD and TIPP’s joint polling team deserves some credit for its accuracy in the face of the major consensus that Hillary Clinton was set to win. That being said, historically IBD and TIPP have also done solid work in measuring presidential approval ratings with limited bias. Limited accuracy, especially in recent election polling, prevents IBD/TIPP from rising higher.
9. Gravis Marketing — Gravis Marketing certainly has name recognition, but a closer look reveals that it bears at least limited Democratic bias and a mixed bag of successes and failures in predictive accuracy. Nevertheless, it has recently done better in predicting primaries as midterms in November fast approach.
10. Los Angeles Times — The leading California newspaper also dabbles in election predictions, partnering with the University of Southern California to conduct statewide and national polling. As a polling group, the L.A. Times and its 86 percent accuracy in calling races is undeniably respectable, making the group one of the highest accuracy rates among all news organizations considered for this listing.
11. Survey USA — An industry standard, Survey USA features automation and question phrasing that effectively reduces bias to almost zero, calling more than 90 percent of races correctly. It conducts a large sample of polls every year, suffering on this list solely because of its youth relative to other pollsters.
12. Siena College — Keeping with the theme of university-researched polling being more accurate and unbiased, Siena College has successfully predicted more than 80 percent of races, and has recent success to ride on. This polling group has certainly earned its reputation for serious inquiry into public opinion and consumer confidence in both politics and economics.
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13. Monmouth University — Popular in the media, Monmouth has also been incredibly accurate in its predictions of recent congressional and senate primary elections, boasting a very respectable margin of error of less than 2 percent for races that are considered more volatile and difficult to predict than presidential contests. However, its well-known Democratic bias and their wildly inaccurate prediction of Clinton being favored by more than 6 percentage points, prevents Monmouth from rising further up the list.
14. Gallup Polling — Gallup has been around since 1935 and has conducted polling and research around the world in politics and business for more than three quarters of a century. While its prestige is unprecedented and its name has long been synonymous with accurate, in recent years Gallup and its trusted phone polling has not fared as well when it comes to election predictions, facing accusations that the group underrepresents cell phone owners, young voters, and minority groups.
15. Suffolk University Political Research Center — The Suffolk University Political Research Center joins other university polling groups on this list, receiving praise for correctly predicting more than 80 percent of races in a limited sample. With its success and a respectably limited but slight Democratic bias, the group enjoys a relationship with USA Today and is well respected.
16. Public Opinion Strategies — Founded by Republican Bill McInturff, Public Opinion Strategies has become one of the largest Republican polling organization in the country, conducting thousands of candidate-based polling over the years. It does suffer from a clear Republican bias and a less than stellar history of election predictions, but remains a staple client for Republicans looking for polling data.
17. Zogby Interactive — Zogby Analytics, popular in both the mainstream media and pop culture, is the brainchild of John Zogby, a pollster who has successfully predicted the result of nearly every presidential election from 1996 to 2012. A registered Democrat, Zogby’s polling group is actually known to show Republican bias in its solid record of 78 percent predictive accuracy.
18. CNN Opinion Research — CNN’s Opinion Research Corporation bears a respectable predictive record in elections and a slight Democratic bias despite its attempts to remain objective. Admirable as that may be, the accuracy of their polling has come into question by President Trump regarding both his approval rating as commander in chief, and CNN’s polling results of the 2016 election that had Clinton favored by over 10 percentage points.
19. SurveyMonkey — SurveyMonkey is an online surveying group allowing clients to poll for questions ranging from where the office team should order takeout from to who should be elected the next POTUS. While their online polling method bears questioning regarding methodology, their ad-based political polling produces pretty accurate results — with 83 percent of races called correctly, albeit with heavy Democrat overrepresentation.
20. Luntz Global — With decades in the biz under his belt, conservative pollster Frank Luntz is best known for his specialty: language and message creation. He’s worked with household politicos like Newt Gingrich and Ross Perot, authored more than one New York Times bestseller, and gone toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the past. Though he missed the 2016 presidential race (like most did), Luntz has a proven track record of zeroing in on public opinion.
21. American Research Group — American Research Group has been around since 1985, is relatively unbiased (leaning slightly Republican), and should get some credit for surviving thus far. The praise ends there however, as the group’s history of wrongful predictions (20 percentage points off the actual result several times) and historic inability to properly predict the actions of young voters is cause for concern.
22. ABC News — ABC News may be more known for its reporting than its polling, but the organization actually conducts a large number of surveys and polling on a variety of public opinion topics. ABC News often publishes joint election polling with The Washington Post, boasting 78 percent accuracy in race prediction with a limited Democratic bias.
23. Public Policy Polling — At least Public Policy Polling admits it’s a Democratic firm, and the group deserves some credit for relative success in its election-calling accuracy. Nevertheless, PPP severely underestimated candidate Trump in 2016, and has often asked questions that undermines its seriousness as a polling institution, once polling the public on the approval rating of God and whether it is believed Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer.
24. CBS News — The first of several news-based polling groups to make the list, CBS News boasts solid predictive accuracy for elections, and is relatively unbiased. CBS often publishes joint election polling with The New York Times, meaning their polls often receive widespread media attention and recognition.
25. Pew Research Center — The Pew Research Center bills itself as a nonpartisan, Washington, D.C., polling group, operating as a nonprofit to conduct polling for the sake of educating the public. While this goal is admirable, a limited sample of recent election predictions reveals the group has limited success in predicting the correct result of races, and induces a slight Democratic bias when making their predictions.
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