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Fake polls are a thing, so how can you tell the difference?

Aug 24, 2017

There seems to be growing public doubt about political polls ever since Donald Trump unexpectedly won the presidency, when many polls had him trailing Hillary Clinton.

A recent poll by Delphi Analytica showed Kid Rock leading Debbie Stabenow in a hypothetical Senate race, but Enten says that poll was a phony, probably meant to influence betting behavior.
Credit Kid Rock / YouTube

Harry Enten, a senior political writer at FiveThirtyEight, recently looked at a poll released by Delphi Analytica that showed, in a hypothetical U.S. Senate race, sitting Senator Debbie Stabenow trailing Michigan native Kid Rock, although Rock hasn’t officially announced his candidacy.

Enten said he had never heard of Delphi Analytica before, and was suspicious of the poll they put out because of inconsistencies in some of the response data. After digging into it, he said the poll was, in fact, faked.

“I couldn’t find a single real person who was in charge of this organization. There were a lot of fake people who were claiming fake names,” Enton said. “And it seemed to me the reason they had put out this poll is because they were members of the betting markets.”

It’s possible to bet on whether individual political candidates will win or lose in upcoming elections. Enten said he thinks Delphi Analytica published the phony Kid Rock poll showing him leading Stabenow in the race with the idea of convincing people to bet on Rock winning a Senate seat for which he hasn't even announced his candidacy.

In an example of how fake polls can influence the political landscape, he said Kid Rock himself retweeted an article with the Delphi Analytica poll mentioned in it.

“It did seem that this poll perhaps pushed [Kid Rock] a little closer to running,” Enten said. “And that would be something, wouldn’t it? Fake news, getting a political candidate who might not otherwise run, to jump into the race for U.S. Senate in the state of Michigan.”

While that hasn’t happened yet, Enten said everyone should be wary of polls online. He outlines ways to avoid being duped by fake polls in another recent piece for FiveThirtyEight.

Listen to the entire conversation with Harry Enten, senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight, above.

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