Politics & Polls #8: All About Polls

Aug 18 2016
By Julian Zelizer & Sam Wang (Produced by Bonelys Rosado and B. Rose Kelly)
Source Woodrow Wilson School

From straw polls of the 19th century to modern polling of today, polls have played a significant role in the American political landscape. But what is a poll? With dozens of new polls coming out every week, how can we make sense of the data onslaught? Is there a way to reduce the confusion? And what role can polls play in 2016, an election year fraught with drama and uncertainty?

In episode eight of “Politics & Polls,” professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang talk all about polls: what they are, whether to trust them and some simple tricks to reduce confusion in a dense media environment.


Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 
Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has been one of the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the author of several books including, most recently, "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." Zelizer is a frequent commentator in the international and national media on political history and contemporary politics. He has published more than 600 hundred op-eds, including his weekly column on CNN.com

Wang is professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is known for his books "Welcome to Your Brain" and "Welcome to Your Child's Brain" and for his founding role at the Princeton Election Consortium, a blog providing U.S. election analyses. In 2004, Wang was one of the first to aggregate U.S. presidential polls using probabilistic methods. In 2012, his statistical analysis correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states. He has also developed new statistical standards for partisan gerrymandering. A neuroscientist, Wang's academic research focuses on the neuroscience of learning, the cerebellum and autism.