Imagining a world without horserace polling

By on October 15, 2012

Gallup’s Frank Newport imagines a political world without horesrace polling.

My experience, and a reading of history, suggest there is a basic human instinct to want to know who is ahead and who is behind in an election. If there are no polls, people will attempt to figure the election out anyway – often using inferior or biased information.

Some visionaries might dream that without horse race polls, all discussion and news coverage of presidential elections would immediately and totally turn to the “issues” we hear so much about. I doubt very much this would occur. Journalists, pundits, commentators and assorted oddballs would happily jump into the void not to discuss issues, but instead to claim that they had the correct truth about who was ahead and who was behind. Worse, if we had no public polls, campaign operatives would provide leaked or hinted at assessments that would spin the race in ways that would favor their candidate.