FAQs: Chism Strategies’ Surveys on US Senate Mississippi Republican Party Primary Election

Why is a Democrat surveying in the GOP Senate Race? This is the most interesting race in the country and it’s happening in our back yard. These surveys help us better understand the Mississippi electorate and that’s helpful in our other work instate.

Who is paying you to do these surveys? Nobody. It’s an internal marketing expense.  We’ve budgeted for public surveys of this type for several years. This one just happens to be in a very closely watched race.

Are IVR surveys reliable? We do more of these IVR surveys than any other Democratic firm in America and are always trying to improve our process.  Our track record is a strong one. But there are certainly some “robopolls” that are poorly done. Imagine a twelve year old with a chainsaw. He can do a lot of damage to himself and others if he doesn’t know how to use it.  There’s a mountain of research that confirms that when done the right way, IVR surveys in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections measured up well against live polls.

What about all the footnotes in your survey reports? We want to be completely transparent about out methodology.  We want everybody -- from the armchair quarterbacks to the serious analysts -- to have all the info we have in the formation of their opinions.  This is a great country where anyone can be an “expert” in politics.  We’re confident enough in our product that we are willing to listen to constructive criticism. We get better when other smart people—on the left and on the right—offer their observations about our work.  

What’s the best argument against an IVR Survey? We cannot legally call mobile phone voters, so a portion of the electorate — usually younger voters and minorities — are harder to reach with this instrument.

Then why don’t campaigns always use live surveys? IVR surveys cost less than half the expense of a live poll. But a statewide campaign with plenty of money would be foolish not to utilize a lengthy poll with live operators.  We tell our clients that if you can afford a live pollster, find one you like and listen carefully to their recommendations.

Are you nervous about your predictions? We aren’t making predictions. We’re just providing a snap shot of the electorate on a particular day. Big expensive campaigns like this race are never static. And we are careful to remind readers about the margin of error in these surveys. 

Does it bother you that both GOP Senate campaigns have questioned your numbers at different stages in this race? No. They have a job to do in energizing their supporters and appealing to undecideds. We’d be more concerned if only one campaign was complaining. 

What if you are wrong with your assessments? If we find on Election Day we’ve missed the mark, we look at our assumptions about turnout and demographics and make sure our scripts were clear and we weren’t “leading the witness” with our questions. And we also look at the dynamics of the race to see if there were factors that just couldn’t be measured in a survey. This humbling experience of getting it wrong—however rare—helps us improve our tool.

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