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Experts differ on reliability of polls ahead of final weekend before midterm

Voters in Jackson, Michigan fill out their ballots in a recent election
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Voters in Jackson, Michigan fill out their ballots in a recent election

The midterm elections are just days away – so you’ve probably seen a lot of information about polls over the last few months.

So how do you know if it's reliable? First thing: you have to look closely at the poll.

Adrian Hemond is with Grassroots Midwest. That’s a bipartisan political consulting firm. He says you need to look at the sample size – the bigger the sample, the more accurate it is.

Another good indicator of accuracy is how well known the candidates are. When you have candidates people are familiar with, the polls tend to be more consistent and accurate. For example: Michigan’s major party candidates for governor.

“At this point, nobody is unclear about who Bill Schuette and Gretchen Whitmer are. And so those polls are going to tend to be a little more reliable,” he says.

But there are some experts who say the most accurate polls are those done the weekend before the election. 

Bill Ballenger is a political analyst and former state lawmaker. He was recently on WKAR’s Off the Record. Ballenger says you have to watch the polls right up until the very end. 

“You can take all the polls you want to, we’ve had 12 or 14 in the last month. If you don’t take it right up to that final weekend and have one on the weekend, you can maybe throw them all out,” he says.

Of course, the most accurate poll is on November 6th – Election Day.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R