When Pollsters Convene: 2009

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Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal has spent the week at the American Association of Public Opinion Research annual convention in Hollywood, Florida.  He's summarizing the highlights -- and we've summarized his highlights. 
Are political markets more accurate than polls?  Towards the end of an election, with high knowledge saturation, they are. But early on, polls are much more predictive

In the current era, the dominance of polls has inhibited election markets from thriving as they might. By all accounts betting markets withered with the dawn of polls (Rohde and Strumpf, 2004). Interest in them is renewed with the advent in recent years of electronic election markets such as the pioneering Iowa Electronic Stock Market and, more recently Intrade (formerly Tradesports) and other online election betting sites. Although the performance of these new infant markets may not always live up to their promise (Erikson and Wlezien, 2008), the future may be brighter. With growing interest and higher volume of trading, the performance of current trading markets may surpass that of its ancestral forebearers from the pre-poll era. By theory, the promise is that election markets, informed by polls plus other information, should perform better than polls alone. While empirical support for that claim may be in dispute, the future may hold a clearer verdict.

Cell phone users: not just the young, but the highly socially mobile. When these variables are controlled, the differences in political ideology between cell phone users and landline users go away. 

Blumenthal interviews CBS News deputy director of surveys Sarah Dutton about gender and race of interviewer effects on the 2008 Democratic primary polls. Was there a gender effect? Did men tell different things to women interviewers than male interviews? Not really. Was there a racial effect? CBS's meta-analysis concludes that, in the primary, both white and black voters were more likely to tell black interviewers that they supported Barack Obama than white interviews; the trend mitigated itself as the actual election approached. 
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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