A reminder that the polling mode can impact the result

A reminder that the polling mode can impact the result

Pew Research have highlighted this difference between American online and phone polls when it comes to the death penalty.

The death penalty, alongside abortion, is one of the more controversial subjects and I can understand why some Americans may wish to avoid disclosing their true opinion to strangers. I suspect this polling difference may get worse in the future with things like, and I really wish I was making this up, at least one state in America is refurbishing its gas chambers so Zyklon B, used extensively during The Holocaust, can be used to kill death row inmates.

What really struck me from this analysis were the racial and ethnic differences.

The pattern of more support for the death penalty in online surveys holds across racial and ethnic groups as well. In the three pairs of surveys, White adults were on average 8 percentage points more likely to say they favored the death penalty online than on the phone. The gaps were even larger among Black and Hispanic adults: 17 points and 18 points, respectively, on average.

I wonder this racial and ethnic difference is driven because a recent ‘study concluded that defendants convicted of killing white victims were executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims’ and there’s plenty of other evidence showing the death penalty and the wider criminal justice system in America so African American voters may not wish to make their support for the death support known.

We saw something similar in last year’s Presidential election with most pollsters (regardless of mode) slightly underestimating Black and Hispanic support for Donald Trump, so perhaps when looking at future American polling we should factor in a shy ethnic minority Republican/Trump vote, in a close race this could be critical. As mentioned a few weeks ago who wins the 2022 House race may see a democracy die in America.


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