In Defense of Polls, Though Not Necessarily Pollsters, Pundits or Strategists
by Jon S. Corzine, former US Senator, Governor, and Private Investor and Peter J. Woolley, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Former Gov. Corzine of New Jersey, and his coauthor, Peter Woolley, an academic pollster, review Corzine’s work with pollsters and some key decisions, including voting against the Iraq War Resolution. But it was not polls that drove his decisions nor the accuracy of polls that explained his successes or setbacks. Polling is a tool. The tool does not make good assumptions, define the research frame, or design the studies.
Top takeaways: (a la Madison), polling does not discern the permanent and aggregate interests of the country. You have your own moral compass and sense of the public welfare or you don’t. Second, when public opinion research disappoints, blame the strategist rather than the poll. In one case, the strategist was the governor, he admits. Third, if there are scenarios you do not test, you may well be in for a surprise.
Polling has challenges. There are changing realities in sampling that must be addressed. But these concerns are soluble. Polling’s most difficult challenge is to correct for the innate biases and blind spots of those who use polls in search of a campaign strategy or as a rationalization for a public stance.