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Overnight Polls

Press Release--September 4, 1992

The National Council on Public Polls expressed concern today about the current spate of overnight Presidential polls. Thomas Mann, director of governmental studies for the Brookings Institute, put the issue in perspective when he said, "My view on this is it is a case where the imperatives of news organizations are in conflict with the imperatives of survey research."

Overnight polls do a disservice to both the media and the research industry because of the considerable potential for the results to be misleading. The overnight interviewing period may well mean some methodological compromises, the most serious of which is the inability to make callbacks, resulting in samples that do not adequately represent such groups as single member households, younger people, and others who are apt to be out on any given night.

As overnight polls often result in findings that are less reliable than those from more carefully conducted polls, if the media reports them, it should be with great caution. Bear in mind that up and down trend numbers may be reflecting poor research rather than changing public opinion.

The National Council on Public Polls is an association of organizations involved in the conduct and analysis of public opinion research.

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