How much stock do you put in polls?
If you said “None whatsoever!” you and I aren’t very far apart personally, but that doesn’t mean reporting and commentary surrounding political prognostication are worthless. At the very least, the topic is interesting, and in some cases the discussion of polling outcomes alone is significantly influential in how politicians operate.
Without getting into significant depth about the types of polls, the organizations that survey voters, methodology and disclosure – all worthy topics – the big picture truths I suggest remembering are, one: polling isn’t predicting; and two: people change.
Looking at Illinois’ gubernatorial race as an example, after a Chicago TV station produced poll numbers earlier this week, conservative operatives released their own data. Predictably, the findings were different. But neither outcome will be proven right or wrong by the results of an election that won’t be final until the end of November.
Instead, we might be able to look back to the open of early voting and see where a couple of agencies suggested things stood at the time. Expect several other polls between now and Nov. 8, and even if trends emerge suggesting the race might have a certain conclusion, it’s important to remember all this information builds a larger contextual picture rendering each individual poll less relevant except for its contribution to the whole.
You might read one poll reporting voters’ top issue is crime, while another implies it’s the economy. Perhaps neither rings true to you, the educated voter. You might see a lower approval rating for the incumbent and a higher number for the likelihood of his reelection bid, but being dissatisfied with how one guy operates doesn’t automatically mean giving the other one a chance.
Only one data point truly matters: how you mark your personal ballot. But people making a living in politics can never get enough numbers.
MUSEUM MENTIONS: I’ve invited readers to share their favorite Illinois museum or ideas for new institutions. Rich Gunderson understood the prompt:
“My favorite museum is the Norsk Museum in Norway. It’s the only heritage museum in the area. It honors the first Norwegian settlers in America who came over in 1825. Norway, Illinois, is the first permanent settlement in America. The king of Norway visited in 1975 to dedicate the historical marker for Cleng Peerson, the ‘Father of Immigration.’ In 2025 we are in hopes the royal family will return to celebrate 200 years since the first immigration. Many groups have called for a tour during non-open hours. The museum is open Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m., June to October, manned by all volunteers. Well worth the visit!”
Please email your favorites. Responses printed as space allows.