Problems Measuring Public Opinion


Condorcet, or Voter’s Paradox

-         Rationality requires transitive preferences

o      If I prefer A>B and B>C, I should prefer A>C (A>B>C)

o      Irrational to choose C>A

-         Under some conditions, intransitive preferences emerge in collective opinion

o      Individuals are rational but collective outcome is irrational

o      See Condorcet Table

-         Condorcet conditions may be rare

-         Difficult to detect in most polls


Question Wording

-         respondents may be influenced by question wording

-         various wording invoke different “frames”

o      abortion examples

-         bad polling v. unstable opinion



“telemarketing technique in which telephone calls are used to canvass vast numbers of potential voters, feeding them false and damaging "information" about a candidate under the guise of taking a poll to see how this "information" effects voter preferences. In fact, the intent is to "push" the voters away from one candidate and toward the opposing candidate.” (National Council of Public Polls,


-         is it effective?

-         Limited evidence on use