Using only online data, a new poll defies conventional phone pollster wisdom.
The political polls have been notoriously wrong throughout this election
season. Caller ID, do-not-call lists and increasing migration away from
land-based phones have all conspired to make it more difficult for traditional
pollsters to do their thing.
Since no one else has gotten it right, Civic Science, a Pittsburgh
software company, has jumped into the prediction arena with a new twist: using
only poll responses and demographic data from Pennsylvania
residents collected over the Web sites of membership organizations, online
media outlets, social networking portals and blogs.
Civic Science's take on tech-savvy voters shows Barrack Obama in a romp (61
percent to 37 percent) over Hillary Clinton in the state's April 22 primary.
Those numbers run contrary to traditional pollsters showing Clinton
comfortably in the lead, although Obama has narrowed the gap somewhat in the
closing days of the campaign.
"We are certainly not suggesting that Obama is going to win
Pennsylvania by 24 points or that our data, by itself, is more accurate than
traditional phone surveys," John Dick, president and CEO
of Civic Science, said in a statement. "We are not in the business of
handicapping political races. We are in the business of measuring and
understanding the opinions of web-savvy voters and consumers."
Nevertheless, Dick added, "If these people turn out to vote next
Tuesday, as they have indicated they will, we could see a very close race or
even an Obama win in Pennsylvania."
According to Civic Science, Obama leads Clinton
among all age, gender and household income categories. The company's survey
analyzed the political leanings, demographic profiles, lifestyle preferences
and trends of nearly 7,000 unique Pennsylvania
political consumers reached exclusively online.
When Civic Science asked respondents whether they had ever participated in a
phone poll or survey, Obama's support doubled among those who claimed they had
never responded to a phone poll. "The Democratic primary is clearly
bringing non-traditional voters into the fray this year," Dick said.
"These are voters that have proven very difficult for the phone polling
companies to gauge."
Civic Science uses short, three-question polls to maximize response rates,
building extensive profiles of individuals who take multiple polls over time.
The identities of respondents remain completely anonymous.
"Civic Science has definitely uncovered a groundbreaking approach to using
the Internet to augment phone-based polling," said John Anzalone, founder
of Anzalone Liszt Research in Montgomery, Ala.,
and a board member of Civic Science. "Clearly, they have a long way to go
before they can compete with the breadth of phone polling, but the depth and
volume of data they are collecting is tremendous."
Dr. Lamar Pierce, an economist from Washington
University and scientific advisory chair
for Civic Science, said the company's respondent population does not represent Pennsylvania
as a whole. "We can confirm that they are generally younger, more
educated, more affluent and more politically active than the average Pennsylvania
voter," he said.