George Graham

Do You Trust the Polls?


There are nearly 150 million registered voters in America. And, from time to time, I read about polls claiming to speak for us all.

Forgive me if I am a little skeptical.

I know the people who conduct the polls are experts at what they do, and they spent years learning to extrapolate accurate results from carefully created samples. But, do you really trust a poll that samples 1,100 voters (like a recent CNN poll) to represent 150 million?

I haven’t been included in anybody’s sample recently. Have you? Do you know anyone who has?

You might say that the polls are sometimes right. But I bet you’ve picked a winner at the race track occasionally. With so many polls, someone has to get lucky.

The most audacious polls are the ones that claim to represent “likely voters.” I know I am a likely voter. I would crawl out of my deathbed to vote. Why hasn’t anybody polled me?

America’s voters are an unpredictable lot. They might plan to vote but get distracted and never get around to it. Or they might not plan to vote and read or hear something at the last minute that makes them decide to vote after all.

Voting doesn’t seem to be a big deal in America. Slightly more than half of the 218 million eligible voters bother to cast a ballot when the White House is up for grabs. Just over a third turn out when there’s no presidential race.

Turnout has been especially low among Hispanic and Asian voters, and this demographic has grown rapidly. While about 65 percent of white and black voters have been casting their ballots, less than half of the Hispanic and Asian electorate have been showing up at the polls.

I doubt that this trend will continue. This election campaign has been so racially charged, I would think Hispanics and Asians – especially Muslim Asians – have every reason to participate. Don’t you?

TV pundits too often parrot the polls without putting them in context. It fills air time, I guess. But it doesn’t do much to enlighten viewers.

More on voting turnout

More on changing demographics

Recent poll results

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for