Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in U.S. Presidential Elections (Paperback)

Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in U.S. Presidential Elections By W. Joseph Campbell Cover Image
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This update of a lively, first-of-its-kind study of polling misfires and fiascoes in U.S. presidential campaigns takes up pollsters’ failure over the decades to offer accurate assessments of the most important of American elections.

Lost in a Gallup tells the story of polling flops and failures in presidential elections since 1936. Polls do go bad, as outcomes in 2020, 2016, 2012, 2004, and 2000 all remind us. This updated edition includes a new chapter and conclusion that address the 2020 polling surprise and considers whether polls will get it right in 2024. 

As author W. Joseph Campbell discusses, polling misfires in presidential elections are not all alike. Pollsters have anticipated tight elections when landslides have occurred. They have pointed to the wrong winner in closer elections. Misleading state polls have thrown off expected national outcomes. Polling failure also can lead to media error. Journalists covering presidential races invariably take their lead from polls. When polls go bad, media narratives can be off-target as well. Lost in a Gallup encourages readers to treat election polls with healthy skepticism, recognizing that they could be wrong.

About the Author

W. Joseph Campbell is an American writer, historian, and media critic who is the author of six other books, including the award-winning Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism.

Praise For…

"Campbell puts the glaring mistakes of the 2016 presidential polls in historical perspective in this accessible and well-informed survey of polling errors. . . . Newshounds closely following the latest 2020 predictions would be well-advised to read this bracing reality check."
— Publishers Weekly

"A fast-moving narrative history of some attempts to gauge public opinion amid electoral politics. . . . Campbell’s gaze goes far beyond the Beltway and back further in history than the astonishing election night four years ago." 
— Wall Street Journal

"Campbell’s book is a tour de force on the history of presidential polling.”
— Civitas Institute

"Campbell shows how other errors have bedeviled the polling industry since 1936 despite decades of advances in computer power and statistical sophistication. It is difficult to read Campbell’s book without empathizing with the pollsters and (crucially, as Campbell observes) the journalists and pundits interpreting and amplifying their conclusions."
— Milken Institute Review

"A lively account of the personalities and squabbles, the greatest hits and equally great misses, that marked polling’s U.S. ascent. . . . Campbell provides a brisk historical tour of technical breakthroughs like probability sampling and new instruments such as the exit poll. It is not exactly a tale of progress."
— Reviews in American History

"Campbell’s book is well-written, impressively researched, and detailed. . . . Lost in a Gallup comes alive as Campbell relays the internal critiques, jealousies, evaluations, and self-assessments of the pollsters."
— Journalism History

"Campbell’s journalistic style is engaging, and he covers a tremendous amount of ground. . . . [he] raises important and timely questions about both polling and journalism performance."
— Public Opinion Quarterly

"This extensively researched and engagingly written volume profiles early pioneers of polling…highlighting their contributions, missteps, and non infrequent competitiveness and hubris."
— The Journal of American History

"An entertaining and informative peek into a recently much-maligned aspect of U.S. elections."
— Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9780520397781
ISBN-10: 0520397789
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English