Is "Pew Research" reliable?


warm istanbul:
I have been following Pew for quite some time and I have noticed they produce a lot of click bait and have some rather strange findings in some of their polls: their insistence that 100 percent of Americans have an educated opinion on any given issue in a country where almost half of people can't even find Nevada on a map, their ridiculous claims about a 40-point gender gap among millenials (including that the majority of young men voted GOP in the 2018 midterms), their tendency to show outlying opinions on a variety of issues (the lowest numbers for support of Trump's Muslim ban of any poll, while simultaneously some of the highest numbers for support for general racist attitudes). The fact that nobody else seems to ever criticize it or its methodology makes me even more suspicious, since it is frequently held up as this inviolable resource for public opinion, yet I have never once heard an actual accountable statistic (i.e. predicting how Americans will actually vote) quoted from them. That, and their general clickbaity-ness makes me really suspicious of whether they can be valuable as a resource for much of anything.

I fully admit that this is just a personal bias and I can be convinced otherwise though.

Yes, Pew has an excellent reputation for being fair, accurate, & quite reliable. It's nonpartisan, nonprofit, & employs high quality researchers who generally use the best possible practices & methodologies. They're the giants of surveying on a wide range of topics/subjects, & they're just a good polling organization, but remember, opinion polls always have to be taken w/ a grain of salt. The way questions are asked will yield different results, & people's responses often don't reflect their deeply felt political convictions b/c most people don't have deeply felt political convictions at all. Polls largely just reflect the rhetoric people like at a political moment in time. The rhetoric they like can change.

I trust Pew - The problem is most people don't understand polling and what the results actually mean. So what happens is that their data gets misused in all sorts of ways and can end up justifying anything.

Three videos to give you some idea about how polls are used, how they can be interpreted & how you can get them to say whatever.

warm istanbul:
Thanks for the replies guys. Admittedly my main benchmark is the American National Election Studies (I don't pay attention to most polls) so I may be jaded on this, but I have noticed that ANES questions usually are multiple choice. They will ask respondents to rate a policy or a belief on a five or seven point scale, with people choosing the middle options being largely apolitical/apathetic. Pew on the other hand forces everyone to choose a yes-or-no answer, which to me makes the results seem rather ridiculous (for instance, when they asked about Trump's Muslim travel ban they found 62 percent against and 37 in favor. Apparantly less than one percent of people have no opinion or are conflicted, even though most people probably don't even know what the hell the question means).

An important thing to remember about polls - its not in their interests to fake results or have sloppy methods. They do more then poll about elections they work in so many fields. For them election polling is merely their advertising.

Sometimes they do cock up, sometimes they get a duff sample. Which is why you should never focus on one poll or one pollster. Ultimately they are measures of opinion and guess what? Opinions change. The common mistake is to presume that just because says 40% support that its always going to be that way.  Think about the 2017 UK election, Labour were polling 24% when it was called. They ended up getting 40%. What happened was that Labour supporters who didn't like Corbyn were telling pollster they didn't know how they were going to vote, hence they weren't included. The election was called and they flocked back. This has led to Labour supporters thinking the same thing will happen again even though they're polling far behind the conservatives.

Polls get a bad rap because people don't understand the basics and don't understand what the polls tell them. Plenty of politicians don't understand them either.


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