Stephen Utych recently published an article in The Conversation titled “Rethinking reporting on polls in time for midterm elections.” The piece examines changes to the Associated Press guidelines for reporting on polls in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
Utych introduces his own research on the topic of polling and then introduces guidelines citizens should consider when reading about polls:
“When an election is seen as competitive, citizens become more engaged and think more deeply about the candidates. Additionally, citizens are motivated to learn more about candidates who show improvements in their polling numbers. Polls can signal that an election is competitive, or that a candidate is a viable option, and this can encourage citizens to start paying more attention.
In other words, while the AP is right that a single poll often does not give a clear picture of an election, it can change how citizens think about the election. In our research, we provide citizens with a single piece of polling information. This single poll influences how citizens search for information about the candidates. When a candidate is seen as more viable, or when an election is more competitive, citizens tend to look for more policy relevant information about the candidates …”
The piece has garnered more than 30,000 reads and has been republished on multiple media platforms, including Salon.com and Smithsonian Magazine.