As the nation approaches Election Day, the question remains: can we trust the polls?

UW Madison Elections Research Center director Barry Burden says that polling, while flawed, still remains the best tool to keep tally on people’s potential votes. 

“Letters to the editor or interviewing people at rallies, or focus groups are all really helpful, but they don’t give you a picture of the full electorate where each person’s opinion is weighed equally and where it’s designed to represent the full set of voters or the full set of residents of the state.”

Burden says pollsters will need to take a serious look at how people respond differently to polling over the phone rather than online polling. 

“Now that could just be because phone surveys reach a different sort of person than an internet survey does, after all it’s a very different methodology. But it might also be that people online are are more willing to express unpopular views.”

While the polls accurately predicted the final popular vote of the 2016 election, they failed to catch the surge of rural voting that pushed President Trump over the edge in the Electoral College.

The Elections Center will be doing more polling of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all of which flipped from Democrat to Republican in the 2016 elections, after narrow victories by President Trump.

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