The 2008 Presidential Election: Can the State Polls be Trusted?

Pollsters routinely point to their industry’s long record of success in predicting the outcome of the popular vote for the U.S. president. However, it is the statewide elections that matter most, since the president is chosen through the Electoral College and not through a national popular vote. In close national elections, reliable state polls and insightful state-level voting analyses are essential parts of predicting electoral votes and the result of the Presidential election, as well as control of the Congress. Given the likelihood of yet another close election in 2008, our ability to predict the ultimate outcome depends greatly on polls taken at the state level. But who is conducting these polls and how much does their reliability vary from state to state? What are the key demographic and social trends that really drive voting trends in the battleground states? Moreover, how will the statewide polls be affected by having, for the first time in history, a major party candidate who is African American?

On October 7, CSDP co-sponsored a panel discussion on the reliability of state polls in this election.
Christopher Achen, Department of Politics, Princeton University
Larry Hugick, Chairman, Princeton Survey Research Associates International
Andrew Gelman, Departments of Statistics and Political Science, Columbia University
Joe Lenski, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder, Edison Media Research
Co-sponsors: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, The New York and New Jersey chapters of the American Association for Public Opinion Research

About this site

The mission of Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow Wilson School is to promote empirical research on democratic processes and institutions.  That broad mandate has attracted a diverse collection of faculty, students, and visitors pursuing a wide variety of research topics. However, the American electoral process has been a recurrent focus of interest for many of the scholars associated with CSDP and a frequent topic of conferences, colloquia, and other events sponsored by the Center.  As the 2008 campaign unfolds, we thought it might be helpful and fun to collect the election-related research, analyses, and offbeat insights of our extended scholarly community, both for our own edification and as a resource for others interested in how political scientists are thinking about the election.  We welcome contributions, comments, and suggestions. For more about the people and activities of CSDP, please visit our website, To post a comment, click the "speech bubble."

  — Larry M. Bartels, Director

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