Experts say Kentucky election polls often misleading

Patrick Brennan

While this year’s presidential election season continues to swell, more than 150 Kentuckians gathered on Wednesday to take a step back and gain a broader perspective. 

For just over an hour, Democratic strategist Celinda Lake and Republican strategist Robert Blizzard brought the group “inside the tent” to discuss issues surrounding polling and the current political climate.

The forum was sponsored by the Martin School for Public Policy and Administration, and it follows fall’s conference on voting rights.

“These are the people that really know what’s going on … This is a big deal here,” moderator Michael Ruehling said.

Associate political science professor Stephen Voss began the forum by raising questions about political polls. Voss said there are many potential explanations for the discrepancy between polls and elections, and the media doesn’t always paint a full picture of the polling results.

“While experts have a lot of questions, we generally have more answers than make it into the press coverage and the accompanying chatter around these polls,” Voss said.

A now infamous example of polling discrepancy is Gov. Matt Bevin’s nine point victory over Jack Conway after consistently losing in the pre-election polls.

The Republican strategist, Blizzard, is a partner at a polling company which the New York Times described as the “leading Republican polling company” in the country. Blizzard devoted time to explain why Kentucky polls have been mistaken in recent years.

“Most public polls can’t afford to do cell phone interviews. And in a state like Kentucky… over a third of the state’s population live in cell phone only households,” he said.

Blizzard also criticized Kentucky polls for their ineffective methods of gauging who will vote.

Blizzard then shared his findings on the current political climate of the country. He said voters have been consistently pessimistic for the last 12 years, which is maybe the longest period of extended pessimism in American history.

“The presidential race is going to be, in my opinion, nasty,” Blizzard said. “(Donald Trump’s image according to the latest poll) is the highest negative for any potential nominee in history. And, if not for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton would have the highest negative of any candidate in history.”

Lake is the founder of Lake Research Partners Inc. and worked as a pollster for Vice President Joe Biden in 2008. She shared similar information about the divided political climate.

“Both parties are in trouble. The only thing that makes people feel good about being a Democrat today is the Republicans,” Lake said.