Electoral Polls Conference in Mexico City

Electoral Polls Conference in Mexico City
Rosario Aguilar, CIDE and WAPOR Mexico National Representative

On December 5th and 6th WAPOR, in coordination with the National Election Institute (INE) and the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), organized a first-class event to discuss the challenges and future of electoral polls in Mexico and the world. In total, the event consisted of six panels and the participation of national and international practitioners and experts.

The discussion ranged from issues of transparency and criteria to publish electoral polls, with the participation of Lorena Becerra (Reforma), Scott Clement (The Washington Post), Tim Johnson (AAPOR & WAPOR), and Enrique Quintana (El Financiero). Given the fact that new technologies, such as tablets, Internet surveys, etc. are gaining ground there was a panel dedicated on how to make best use of these technologies given the challenges in the field. This panel continued with the participation of Edmundo Berumen (Berumen & Asoc.), Claudio Flores (LEXIA), Alejandro Moreno (ITAM/Financiero/WAPOR), Luis Woldenberg (NODO), and Elizabeth Zechmeister (U. Vanderbilt/LAPOP).  There was also a discussion on the methodological challenges facing electoral polls and alternatives for dealing with higher nonresponse rates with the participation of Ulises Beltrán (BGC), Jorge Buendía (Buendía & Laredo), Miguel Cervera (former Mexican census staff), and Joe Lenski (Edison Research).

The second day consisted of three panels. The first discussed issues of aggregation with the participation of Javier Aparicio (CIDE), Francisco Cantú (U. of Houston), Mario de la Rosa (Nación 321), Natalie Jackson (Huffington Post), and Drew Linzer (Civiqs). The second panel discussed the use of electoral surveys as campaign strategies in Mexico with the participation of Francisco Abundis (Parametría), Federico Berrueto (GCE), Julio Juárez (political communications expert), and Dirk Zavala (Espacio Muestral). The final panel discussed electoral polling around the world with the participation of Claire Durand (U. of Montreal), Patricio Navia (NYU; Diego Portales U.), Michael Traugott (U. of Michigan), and Ignacio Zuasnabar (WAPOR, Latin-American Chapter).

The first panel discussion centered on what gets published, the criteria newspapers editors and pollsters can follow to accept or publish electoral polls results. The discussion centered on the need for more transparency, the discussion of the AAPOR Transparency Initiative as well as the benefits newspapers have of adopting such policy.  There was an agreement that newspapers in Mexico can work more on transparency issues.

The second panel discussed the challenges in the field and the advantages/disadvantages of the use of new technologies to face those difficulties. The discussion had to do with different approaches to face the large nonresponse rate due to different technologies. Pollsters can use new technologies to keep track of interviewers in the field and contact them, if necessary. One common worry was the potential use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, to run surveys and argue that they are representative of the whole society.

The third panel included a discussion of methodological approaches to deal with a higher nonresponse rate to the whole survey and to the item of vote intention. The panel also discussed the possibility of mixing methodology within one survey, the occasions when this is possible, and the occasions when it would be problematic.

The fourth panel discussed the benefits and drawbacks of polls aggregation. The panel included a discussion of the recent U.S.A. election and the possible reasons poll aggregators gave such high odds of winning to the democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton. The success of polls aggregation depends on the quality and absence of systematic bias in one direction in polls data. Panelists also discussed different methods to evaluate the quality of surveys in a campaign, and the possibility of having this type of forecast in the 2018 Mexican presidential election.

The fifth panel discussed the ways political campaigns use electoral polls to decide campaign strategies, and whether the campaigns have better information than the public does.

Finally, the last panel discussed the performance of polls in different countries, including Latin American countries, Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.A. There are different institutional elements that facilitate polls accuracy. For example, in many Latin American countries citizens must pay a fine if they do not vote, thus it is easier to predict who will vote in these settings compared to those places where there are not any penalties to people who do not vote. The use of different technologies impacts the rate of response, and possible accuracy, of polls as well. The panel also underscored that we should understand the electoral context to interpret the data correctly. Finally, another important issue was the need for well-trained journalists who understand polls and communicate them accurately, explaining voting preferences within a range of uncertainty.

The presentations of the panelists, as well as the videos (in Spanish), can be found on this website (for the presentations, just click on the name of the person): http://www.ine.mx/archivos2/portal/EncuestasElectorales/Foros/2016/precision-encuestas-electorales/