Posted at: 09/28/2012 11:08 PM
| Updated at: 09/28/2012 11:30 PM
By: Dan Levy
LOUDONVILLE - Even though national polls now show that President Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney in the key swing states that he needs to win reelection, not everyone agrees with those polls.
On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor Thursday night, republican strategist Karl Rove told the host, "You have to be careful with these polls, we endow them with false scientific precision."
So can we trust the polls or not? Are they reliable? Are they likely to change in the next five and a half weeks before Election Day?
Don Levy, Director of the Siena Research Institute, says the answer is "yes" to all of those questions.
According to a New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll, the president has opened big leads in Florida (9 points), Ohio (10 points), and Pennsylvania (12 points).
Overall, the Bloomberg Poll has Obama leading Romney 49% to 43%, Gallup has it 50% to 44%, and Public Policy/SIEU/Daily Kos had Obama up 50% to 45%,
Levy, of SRI, says while political operatives are more interested in finding voters who favor their candidates, he's more concerned with measuring someone's likelihood to vote, and reporting it to the public.
"We get people throwing stones at us from a few different directions," Levy says, "But I don't take it personally because we are doing a public service and we try to be fully transparent."
Being fully transparent means poll questions and results are posted on line, and always available to the public.
Between 75 and 100 people are trained to read scripted questions verbatim to respondents, whose phone numbers have been randomly selected.
"We try to keep our polls about 10, or 11, or 12 minutes tops," Levy says. "If you're on a phone with a pollster for 15, or 20, or 25 minutes, sometimes people just want it to end."
Levy says there's an explosion of polling organizations in the country to satisfy what he calls America's insatiable thirst for information.
He insists the major poll takers are reliable and trustworthy because they're accredited and monitored by a trade organization. He also says that with several debates and perhaps unforeseen other events still to come, he's quick to point out that polls are merely a snapshot of the present.
"The president is certainly ahead," Levy states, "The polls have been trending his way in those swing states but by no means is the race over."
Levy also points out that not all polling companies follow the same set of standards. He says it is possible to intentionally manipulate results but reputable firms don't do it and have no reason to do it.
At one time, Levy says, close to 30% of the people who were called would participate in a poll, but now that number is down to just 10%.