All the Best Polls Agree with Me: Bias in Evaluations of Political Polling

  • Gabriel J. MadsonEmail author
  • D. Sunshine Hillygus
Original Paper


Do Americans consider polling results an objective source of information? Experts tend to evaluate the credibility of polls based on the survey methods used, vendor track record, and data transparency, but it is unclear if the public does the same. In two different experimental studies—one focusing on candidate evaluations in the 2016 U.S. election and one on a policy issue—we find a significant factor in respondent assessments of polling credibility to be the poll results themselves. Respondents viewed polls as more credible when majority opinion matched their opinion. Moreover, we find evidence of attitude polarization after viewing polling results, suggesting motivated reasoning in the evaluations of political polls. These findings indicate that evaluations of polls are biased by motivated reasoning and suggest that such biases could constrain the possible impact of polls on political decision making.


Polling Poll evaluation Public opinion Motivated reasoning Cognitive bias 


Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)
11109_2019_9532_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (465 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 466 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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