July 10, 2015 | By Dina Smeltz

Why Were the Greek Polls so off the Mark on the Referendum?

While the final round of polling conducted on the referendum in Greece showed that a no vote would prevail, the actual vote was far more decisive, with 61% saying no and 39% saying yes. Why did the polls get it wrong? For one thing, it is not clear whether the Greek polls took into account voting turnout—and whether only very likely voters were isolated for their projected vote. In addition, Mark Blumenthal of the Huffington Post  and Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight help explain the discrepancy in two recent postings. These include some items particular to polling about referenda (for example, differences between wording of survey questions versus referendum ballot). But they also include other issues that haunt most polling organizations today, including accurate coverage and volatile response rates. 
  • Different wording on the survey questionnaire than on the actual ballot language, which was quite complicated (see translation by New York Times in the Huffington Post article)
  • Greater likelihood to vote yes in surveys about referenda 
  • Volatility in polling response rates so close to vote 
  •  Possibility that cell phone coverage was limited, which could understate young people’s votes
  • “Herding” of results
See the full articles linked above for more details. 
 

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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