The Blog

A Warning About PPP’s Wisconsin Poll

1:28 PM, Jun 4, 2012 • By JAY COST
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s website, Christian Schneider notices something funky about that new PPP poll:

Late Sunday night, Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) released a poll that showed Scott Walker leading Tom Barrett in Tuesday's recall election by three percentage points.  This led the firm to say the race is "tightening," as the last poll they conducted showed a five point spread between Walker and Barrett.  The results, as listed in their poll's toplines:

Tom Barrett ..................................................... 47%
Scott Walker ................................................... 50%
Undecided....................................................... 3%

It was the first poll conducted by PPP since May 15, when they released this head-to-head number:

Tom Barrett.......................................................45%
Scott Walker......................................................50%
Hari Trivedi..........................................................2%
Undecided:..........................................................3%

Notice anything different?

In the this week's final poll, PPP dropped Independent candidate Hari Trivedi as an option.  And it's not as if PPP just forgot Trivedi was running.

Wow. So, PPP changed its methodology at the end of the polling cycle? That itself is a huge no-no, but then it went on to infer that the race is tightening? My goodness!

Truth be told, I always take PPP's polls with a few grains of salt and am hard pressed to accept its verdict until it is supported by other pollsters. I know there are studies pointing to its accuracy, but those measure polls only against final electoral results, and thus a very small percentage of the total polls released.

And no doubt it gets ahead of the trend sometimes, but those ahead-of-the-curve calls are countered by this little switch that Schneider notes, and the fact that PPP polls “voters,” a very strange definition that no other pollster uses. That is a red flag, in my opinion.  

For me, the deciding factor is that PPP’s national tracking poll is sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, which is basically an arm of the Democratic party. The distinction between the two groups is purely formal – in practice, they are one and the same.

So, I’m cautious with its polls, because PPP is effectively the public pollster for the permanent Democratic campaign. It can serve as one of many data points, but I never follow it when it points against the trend.

Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers