Felson, Marcus; Sudman, Seymour
June 1975
Public Opinion Quarterly;Summer75, Vol. 39 Issue 2, p232
Academic Journal
There is widespread agreement that national opinion polls have done a good job of predicting presidential elections in the last two decades. An analysis of primary polls in the 1968 and 1972 elections, however, reveals that state polls have generally been reasonably accurate in predicting primary results. Their accuracy depends mainly on the amount of time between the poll and the primary election. Attitudes of voters in primary elections, particularly presidential-preference elections, are far more volatile than in regular elections. Polls completed the week before the primary are, in every case, better predictors of actual primary results than those that are completed earlier. The article presents results for selected primaries in 1968 and 1972. It shows that the average difference between the final poll and the primary results was about four percentage points. Since most of the polls reported here were based on sample sizes of about 400 persons likely to vote in the primary, deviations of about five percentage points. For the leading candidates and three percentage points for lesser candidates would likely be due to sampling variability. While these sampling errors are larger than for national elections, there do not appear to be major biases.


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