NJ Polling Institute Director Says May Be Time To Scrap Election Polls

The director of the prestigious Monmouth University Institute is admitting he “blew it” when it comes to predicting the margin of the win in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race — and says it may be time to end election polling.

In a commentary for NJ.com Thursday and interview with NPR Sunday, Patrick Murray said the vaunted institution’s polling has been way off.

A Monmouth poll predict New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy would win by 11 percentage points over GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli. Instead, Murphy was barely able to eke out a win,  angering both Republicans and Democrats.

” owe an apology to Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign — and to Phil Murphy’s campaign for that matter — because inaccurate public polling can have an impact on fundraising and voter mobilization efforts. But most of all I owe an apology to the voters of New Jersey for information that was at the very least misleading,” he wrote.

“I blew it,” he admitted.

According to Murray, polling does “quite well” when it’s taking a “snapshot of the full population.”

But election polling “is a different animal, prone to its fair share of misses if you focus only on the margins,” he wrote.

“Some organizations have decided to opt-out of election polling altogether, including the venerable Gallup Poll and the highly regarded Pew Research Center, because it distracts from the contributions of their public interest polling,” he wrote, noting the Quinnipiac poll — “a fixture during New Jersey and Virginia campaigns for decades” — issued no surveys for either state this year.

“Perhaps that is a wise move,” he wrote. “If we cannot be certain that these polling misses are anomalies then we have a responsibility to consider whether releasing horse race numbers in close proximity to an election is making a positive or negative contribution to the political discourse.”

He elaborated on his concern with “horse race numbers” in an interview with NPR.

“One of the thing that worries me right now… if the misses come a little more frequently …and makes people say ’I don’t trust polls anymore’… we’re not doing a very good job,” he lamented.

“The first rule of polling, … you know who your population is,” he added. But in a “more volatile electorate … many of them say ‘I don’t trust any of you.'”

He added he’ll be deciding what to do about “the horse race question” as he considers the future of polling for the institute.

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