The Campaign Spot

The Phantom Poll Respondent of Pennsylvania

This video, of a robocall reaching an answering machine in Pennsylvania, is quite strange.

On the call, the robo-pollster appears to interpret the silence, or lack of response, from the voice mail to be a response supporting Obama.

Before you jump out of your chair, believing this is the evidence that proves pollsters are overstating Obama’s support, take a deep breath.

American Future Fund — if I’m hearing the recording of this polling call correctly — is “a 501(c)(4) and was formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint to have a mechanism to communicate and advocate on the issues that most interest and concern them.” So they’re not a group you would suspect would be eager to overstate or exaggerate Obama’s support.

Secondly, considering how often a pollster calling random numbers would get no answer or voice mail, putting all “no answers” into the pile of Obama — notice he is the first option offered by the robo-pollster — would probably result in Obama getting 70 to 90 percent of the vote. (Pew Research says they get a response on only 62 percent of the numbers they call, and only 9 percent agree to be polled.)

So this is probably a relatively unique technological snafu, not a representation of massive, polling-industry-wide overstatement of support for the first option listed.


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