Political Polling in the United States and Germany. A Comparison

Elaboration, 2013

11 Pages, Grade: 1,7



1. Introduction

2. Operationalization questions or simply methodic

3. Factors that affect political polling

4. Sample & Turnout

5. Share of ethnic minorities on the electorate

6. Electoral system & Party System

7. Poll Closing Time

8. Cross references and footnotes

1. Introduction

In western postmodern political life polling is a pivotal instrument in the political arena. Polling is a vital instrument for analyzing name recognition of political auteurs, for preparing campaign strategies, for screening public opinion, for generating job approval ratings or simply forecast elections respectively waging potential election prospects for political combatants, who considering running for a higher public office Moreover polling results playing not only a decisive role in U.S. primaries, indeed they actually are finally the decision makers, which political candidate may enter a television debate (so in the GOP primary of 2012[i] ) to campaign for his or her political cause. Even in the aftermath of political election polling is used not only to judge the pollster, but to judge the political combats, who successful they played the political expectation game.

Indeed polls to forecast election differ in Germany and the United States. In that context can be mentioned aspects such as likely voters, Minority Turnout and other aspects that are not common vocabulary of German political pundits. Meanwhile in Germany public polls often can forecast elections prospects quite clear. A big contrast can be stated in the United States regarding the 2014 midterm election. Several polls show democrats leading the “generic ballot” for Congress, without indicating a sure democratic takeover of the house. An Article in the Washington post asked How many votes do democrats need to retake the house?” [ii]

Even Barack Obama, who won the Presidency by 3.9 points against his opponent, only carried 209 of 435 Congressional Districts due to gerrymandering.[iii]

Regarding the inductive approach here should be mentioned the discrepancies between polling resuls and the general election result of the German General Election 2005[iv] and the impact for the new Federal Chancellor of Germany, in whose political life everything was at stake, as exit polls indicated a big contrast to previous polling data.

In contrast the democratic New Hampshire Primary of 2008[v] played almost a - once in a lifetime occasion - impact in the political life of Hillary Clinton, who defeated every pre - Iowa caucuses - poll, all of the pundits and even all of the internal final pre-election polls + exit poll in the own Clinton camp.

Finally in the pre-election day of the 2012 presidential race, there was a epic battle between "red" and "blue" professional political pundits about the share of minority turnout in the final electorate and how well they are reflected in public polls.[vi] Complementarily the role of polls based on a sample of whether all adults [US citizen], registered voters or likely voters are implemented in the polling sample is worth for further academic debate.

The matter of fact that the United States and Germany started not at the same point on the scientific path of implementing polls to the society is well known. Actually Germany replicated the experience made by distinguish scientists in the United States and used the experience in oversea as a blueprint to generate own basic polling experience. Western Germany started to do so after the zero hour as a result of World War II and used US. Experience as a framework for a own scientific ground game. The path to perfect methodic questions, implementing modern technology and innovations of social sciences started to separate in the detail. The following study will deal with these differences that just are often coming aware by the second glad.

The main question for the study are differences in political polling in oversea and Germany and their impact to the political system, their interaction with prediction of pundits and their interdependence to question regarding the reliability to predict right electoral outcomes.

2. Operationalization questions or simply methodic

In order to compare the setting of political polling of the United States and Germany, the publication will deal with factors that are of pivotal importance of electoral polling reliability. Insofar the publication first will define some crucial criteria with respect to electoral poll reliability. The publication will not deal with the common problems that are tangential scientific/statistical problems with respect to poll reliability. Indeed the specific conditions that heavily affect the approach of political polls to predict election outcomes will be entirely targeted.

After naming some pivotal factors the publication will go in the scientific parallel universe of detail targeting and compare the setting detail for detail in the political world of Germany and the political System of United States. Overwhelmingly by using a table comparison method, where either a temporal comparison of as relevant regarded configurations or occasions will be compared or simply both countries will stand at the center of the research with their specific political and electoral condition.

3. Factors that affect political polling

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4. Sample & Turnout

The sample for political polling is momentous affected due to the divergent turnout and the different voting system. In Germany and most part of West Europe every adult, with citizen right has the direct right to vote [excluding subjects with a huge criminal record or subjects in significant mental disorder]. It is widely known that in the United States US. Citizens first have to become a registered voter before being literally able to cast a vote. Furthermore turnout in US elections is generally spoken lower than in Germany (as it is often the case in first past the post voting systems).

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Turnout calculating is vital to weight polls right. Complementarily the choosing of the right sample is a pivotal decision. US Polling firms often are working with a sample of likely voters instead of choosing a sample of registered voters. Likely voters are respondents on computer based telephone interviews, who not only are included in the voting list, but who also most likely show up in the polls [usually these criteria will be checked through indirect questions such as turnout record, interest in politics and in the specific race]. Particularly questions regarding estimated voters turnout are of quintessential importance to predict a right election outcome. Pollsters are doing well in reflection voting intention, indeed they are struggling to forecast the right voter turnout. In the United States different composition of the electorate in so called presidential years, midterm elections or off years election – are of at least pivotal importance for any polling model or weighting of polling data.


[i] The Wall Street Journal: Will Huntsmann be excluded from the next GOP debate ?: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/09/27/will-huntsman-be-excluded-from-next-gop-debate

[ii] Washington Post. How many votes do democrats need to retake the house? Perhaps less than you think. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2013/10/23/how-many-votes-do-the-democrats-need-to-retake-the-house-maybe-less-than-you-think/

[iii] Washington Post. How many votes do democrats need to retake the house? Perhaps less than you think. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2013/10/23/how-many-votes-do-the-democrats-need-to-retake-the-house-maybe-less-than-you-think/ [iii]

[iv] Stern: Die Tücken der Wahlumfragen. http://www.stern.de/politik/deutschland/demoskopie-die-tuecken-der-wahlumfragen-2052188.html

[v] Spiegel Online: Sieger in New Hampshire: Clinton erfindet sich neu. http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/sieger-in-new-hampshire-clinton-erfindet-sich-neu-triumph-fuer-mccain-a-527462.html

[vi] The Hill Newspaper: Minority voter turnout will decide the 2012 election. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/05/23/minority-voter-turnout-will-decide-2012-election/

[vii] Source for the Turnout data Table: election.de. Wahlergebnisse: http://www.election.de/cgi-bin/content.pl?url=ltw_wahl.html Source for USA Data: United States Election project. http://elections.gmu.edu/index.html

Excerpt out of 11 pages


Political Polling in the United States and Germany. A Comparison
Free University of Berlin  (Otto Suhr Institut)
Introduction to Comperative Politics
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political, polling, united, states, germany, comparison
Quote paper
Oliver Märtin (Author), 2013, Political Polling in the United States and Germany. A Comparison, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/308288


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