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April 12, 2005

Disclosing Party ID: ABC News/Washington Post

Taking a momentary pause in the exit poll discussion, MP continues with a series of responses from pollsters who do not typically report party identification in online releases to explain their policies.  Today we hear from Gary Langer and Richard Morin, who direct respectively the surveys conducted jointly by ABC News and the Washington Post.  Bucking the recent trend, both organizations will continue to make party ID results from their most recent surveys available only on request.

First, here is the response from ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer

The content of ABC News poll analyses is determined by the sole, independent editorial judgment of ABC News. We include party ID when relevant. ABC News donates its complete polling datasets to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research for public dissemination. Detailed methodological disclosure is posted on our ABCNews.com website. We adhere to the AAPOR Code of Ethics, comply with the disclosure requirements of the National Council on Public Polls and reply in as timely a fashion as possible to questions addressed to newspolls@abc.com.

Next, Washington Post Polling Director Richard Morin:

We have no firm policy on reporting or not reporting party ID from individual surveys. This is what we currently do: As you guessed, we release party ID (and anything else) to anyone who asks us for it. This allows us to have a fuller discussion of the specific result and, if necessary, a detailed conversation about measuring and interpreting unleaned and leaned party ID. We release our complete data sets, which includes party ID.  We have not posted the results of party ID or other demographic or diagnostic questions from individual surveys because they are not, in our judgment, in themselves newsworthy. Of course we look for meaningful trends in these variables and report these changes when we are confident they are real.

Both ABC News and the Post regularly provide full results online for every survey (here and here), including the complete text and responses from every substantive question.  Both have posted exceptionally detailed online summaries of their own methodologies (here and here), more generic guides to public opinion polling (here and here) and the issue of response rates (here and here) in particular. 

While MP has not previously requested party ID results from an ABC/Washington Post survey, he has no doubt that they strive to comply with the ethical standards promulgated by AAPOR and the National Council on Public Polls (NCPP).  Morin, Langer and their staffs are active members of AAPOR, and as Langer notes they regularly release full respondent level data to the Roper Archives, where scholars can slice and dice every variable on every poll, including party ID.   

On the issue of party, both organizations do occasionally report shifts in partisanship (for an example, see the analysis of the ABC survey fielded just after the Republican convention in early September 2004). And MP attended an a session at the 2004 AAPOR conference at which Gary Langer presented this detailed paper on long term trends in party identification.  It is a must read for those that study party identification that Langer kindly made available to MP's readers.

Having said all of that, MP remains surprised these exceptional survey organizations choose to provide results for party identification only on request.  As MP has written previously, the result for party identification on any given survey should not be should not be considered the sole measure of the quality of a survey.  However, party ID is, as Morin implies, one of many "diagnostic" measures that pollsters use to assess how each new survey compares statistically to those done previously.  The readers, like the clients of any research company, deserve some window on those basic diagnostics.  Morever, both organizations could use the release of such data as a vehicle for the "fuller discussion about measuring and interpreting" party identification that Morin surely provides one-on-one. 

Also, while changes in the overall party balance are rarely "newsworthy," both ABC and the Washington Post routinely provide tabulations of results by party subgroups. As recently as their January survey, the Post regularly provided readers with tabulations by party of every question on every survey. Informing readers of the size and statistical significance of those subgroups, especially in online releases with few constraints on space and time, would live up to the spirit - if not the letter - of the NCPP disclosure standards.

Party Disclosure Archive (on the jump)


Related Entries - Weighting by Party

Posted by Mark Blumenthal on April 12, 2005 at 09:30 AM in Weighting by Party | Permalink


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