NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Credit Polls At Your Own Risk

November 23, 1999

In what some are calling pollsters' "dirty little secret," the fact is that many people -- enough to make a big difference -- refuse to answer pollsters' questions.

  • Far fewer people agree to participate in surveys than did just 10 years ago -- and most polling firms refuse to divulge their refusal rates.
  • Ten years ago, polling response rates were typically at least 50 percent.
  • But lately as many as eight out of 10 people queried refused to respond -- a response rate of only 20 percent.
  • Experts report that younger people who live alone are often under-represented in polls because they are out in the evening -- while people with young children, the elderly and the unemployed are over-canvassed.

Polling firms frequently blame telemarketers for ruining their tallies. People being called and surveyed are reluctant to cooperate with a pollster because they believe he or she is trying to sell them something and so they hang up.

Source: Don Van Natta Jr., "Polling's 'Dirty Little Secret': No Response," New York Times, November 21, 1999, 1999.


Browse more articles on Government Issues