OU Professor Talks About The History Of Election Polls

By
Olivia Bevan

Dateline
Updated Tue, Nov 6, 2012 2:25 pm

The importance of polling numbers of likely voters will be a thing of the past after all the votes are counted on Election night.

But polls received a lot of media attention during the campaign season.
    

Ohio University Assistant Professor of History Mark Nevin said polls have been a part of presidential elections since 1936.

According to Nevin, George Gallup predicted Franklin Delano Roosevelt's victory in 1936, but the polls didn't really become a mainstay until the 1968 election.

"That year they were really intergral to all the campaigns and really influenced the outcome of that election like no other before it," Nevin said. "In the 40 years since then we've seen their importance really only grow in presidential elections."

Nevin said Mitt Romney's father ran for president in 1968 and ended his campaign before the first primary because polls showed him behind Richard Nixon.

According to Nevin the polls are important, but they can be wrong.

"Well you should really see them as a snapshot of the electorate,"  he said.  "You know the polls have been wrong.  In 1948, they predicted Dewey would defeat Truman and of course Truman won the election.  They're also not very good at kind of measuring the depth of people's public opinions on complicated public policy issues."

For this election, Nevin said the polls show Obama winning, but a Romney win is certainly possible.

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