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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Academics & Research

Polls still the best predictors for election outcomes, according to study


Political scientist and University of Houston professor Ryan Kennedy said polls are still as reliable as ever. | Courtesy of Ryan Kennedy

In today’s political climate, the validity of polls has been challenged as a reliable method of gauging public reaction.

Political scientist and University of Houston professor, Ryan Kennedy, has co-authored a paper published in the journal Science, focusing on direct executive elections.

“Polling, even in places where you think there wouldn’t be really strong poll indications, seemed to be a really important factor,” Kennedy said. “It seemed to predict quite well.”

The research was conducted over the course of three years with results suggesting global polling can be used effectively, with adjustments, in developing countries as well as the United States.

“I think polling is still the best way to predict election outcomes,” said kinesiology junior Megha Shah. “It shows a more accurate prediction for the election.”

The effectiveness of this research has a relatively high success rate of accuracy, Kennedy said. The research can potentially be used to poll future elections.

“We call it a ‘538 for the world,'” Kennedy said. “We extend the technique used in U.S. elections globally. After we made some statistical corrections to deal with issues of polling bias and things like that, we ended up getting about 90 percent correct.”

The study also addressed using U.S. election techniques on a global scale.

A recent example of confirmation bias is President Trump’s assertion that any polls not in favor of his executive order implementing travel restrictions on citizens from seven countries are “fake news.”

“Having taken courses on data analysis, I strongly believe that polls, if conducted in a systematic way, can effectively predict the election outcomes,” said industrial engineering graduate student Bilal Majeed.

Kennedy said that with any scientific research, there are quite a few challenges.

“There are two countervailing forces at work,” Kennedy said. “On one hand, in a number of countries, polling techniques are rapidly improving in countries which don’t have a long tradition of polling,” said Kennedy.

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