The Civil Beat Poll

The Civil Beat Poll: How We Do It

Civil Beat's pollsters explain the methodology and reasoning behind our political surveys.

·By Matthew Fitch and Seth Rosenthal

There has recently been increased interest, some of it critical, regarding the methods we use to conduct election polls in Hawaii. Our methods are straightforward and based on industry best practices. Our goal is to accurately capture the opinions and intentions of Hawaii’s voters.

For every poll we conduct, we follow a standardized, step-by-step procedure. Even though we may sometimes be surprised by what we find, we are always guided by our data. Because of the nature of political polling, we do have to make some judgment calls along the way. But we fully appreciate that the most important experts about public opinion in Hawaii are you — the public.

Voters go to the polls in 2012.

Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat

Bearing that in mind, here is a brief, step-by-step description of our methods:

Step 1: Create an Unbiased Survey

Our most important goal is to understand public opinion in Hawaii without influencing it. We carefully vet every question in each of our surveys for potential sources of bias. And in election surveys, we take the additional step of creating multiple versions of candidate match-up questions so different survey takers hear the candidate’s names in different orders.

For instance, half of the respondents to the current poll answered questions about a Senate race between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa, while the other half answered questions about a race between Colleen Hanabusa and Brian Schatz. This randomization exceeds industry standards for automated polling (that is to say, surveys where the questions are pre-recorded and

About the Authors


Matthew Fitch

Matthew Fitch is the Executive Director of Merriman River Group. Since co-founding the company in 1998, he has specialized in election management services. Merriman River has been a consultant on some of the world's largest private elections, providing data and technology services to ensure fair and transparent voting while promoting voter participation. Merriman River launched a polling division 2007 with a dual focus on delivering accurate data and detailed analysis.
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Seth Rosenthal

Seth Rosenthal is a research methodology consultant to Merriman River Group. He received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard University, and studied polling methods during a Fellowship at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
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