Rearranging the Deck Chairs Would Not Have Saved the Titanic
The Marquette University Law School released its latest poll of Wisconsin voters last month. The release was accompanied by much fanfare about major changes in how the poll is going to be conducted. Charles Franklin, the poll’s Director, described the impetus for change as growing obstacles to traditional polling. Among them were increasing difficulty getting people on the phone and reaching voters under 30.
There are a number of changes Franklin reported. The poll is now going to select its sample from Wisconsin’s official list of registered voters rather than rely on asking respondents if they are registered. Franklin claims the voter rolls will also provide information about the voters that will be useful, though he did not offer any specifics. The poll will also survey a “panel” of respondents, who have agreed in advance to participate through letters and surveys sent to their homes (their willingness to participate on an on-going basis disqualifies them as “representative” of the voters). One quarter of the survey respondents will come from this panel and three quarters will come from the registered voter list. Respondents will now also be offered the option of responding online.
In recent years, the extent of the corruption of our political process has been exposed. The unholy alliance between the political parties, the media, and the pollsters exerts a stranglehold on information and deprives voters of access to the truth.
The role of the polls in this corruption is shaping and manipulating opinion rather than reflecting it. They are designed to influence. The changes being made aren’t intended to address the problem.
In the June poll, there were 913 respondents. In a deeply divided state with more than 3.5 million voters, it is inconceivable that any approach to sampling such a tiny fraction of voters will yield a “representative” group. Further, the response rate for the June poll is a dismal 1.5%. Nearly 61,000 voters had to be contacted to secure a sample of fewer than 1,000 voters. The first important question Charles Franklin may want to answer is why so few Wisconsin voters are willing to participate.
There are far greater problems than response rate for this poll. The questions that are asked, how they are worded, and the intentional complexity that leaves ample opportunity for misinterpretation, lock respondents into answering questions that may be meaningless to them. Inclusion in the poll is arbitrary. When I ran as an Independent for governor in 2022, Charles Franklin refused to poll the voters on their opinions of me, or the concept of an Independent candidate, until I was officially on the ballot in June of 2022. I had been a declared candidate and running an active campaign since January 2021 and am highly qualified for the governorship. In the latest June poll, Franklin asks voters for an opinion about Eric Hovde and David Clarke for Senate, even though they are only rumored to be interested in running. Why the difference?
The arbitrary and complex questions and poll structure make Charles Franklin a very powerful and sought after source. The news media flock to him as the man with the answers.
Credible polling would seek to understand what the voters of Wisconsin care about and what they are thinking. Meaningful changes would start with integrity and trustworthiness. The changes being made don’t come close. Rearranging the deck chairs would not have saved the Titanic.