How Does Political Polling Work? We Asked The Grinnell National Poll To Explain

Jan 27, 2020

Every four years Iowans are bombarded with telephone calls asking to take a polling survey in preparation for the caucuses. Reading polls can be confusing. Most polls show different outcomes for elections and vary from week to week. In the context of the Iowa caucuses, it's even more confusing because so many likely caucusgoers remain undecided until the last minute. So, how do we understand political polling? We brought in Peter Hanson, Director of the Grinnell National Poll, to explain.

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe speaks with Hanson about the history of political polling as well as how the data is collected from the general public. Despite the decline in the use of landline telephones, which tend to be used by older generations, calling people to collect data remains one of the most effective ways of conducting polls. Additionally, the rise of robocalls to cell phones is an added barrier for pollsters. As Hanson explains, there are many technical processes used to weigh variables and strive toward the most accurate data possible.   


  • Peter Hanson, Director of the Grinnell National Poll, Associate Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College