Honors: Interview with Doug Belden about including polls

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Doug Belden, a politics reporter at the Pioneer Press, frequently includes information from polls into his articles and recently covered the marriage amendment issue.

Belden said that he finds new polls to mention in stories every five or six weeks and that he tends to mention the poll in a story if it has new figures and shows a change from the last poll on the topic. When he includes a poll in the story, he mentions how the poll has changed from previous polls, the margin of error, when the poll was conducted, who conducted the poll, and anything he knows about the bias of the poll.

In the case of a polarized issue, Belden said that he usually tries to pass over the internal polls created by the campaigns and instead find polls that were done independently. He said that it is important to give less weight to these internal campaigns as the polls are biased and could be trying to sway the voters. For example, he mentioned that an internal poll that was released close to election day concerning the voter ID amendment. In this case, he said he would not use it because it is an internal poll and since it was so close to the election day, it could be trying to sway people.

Belden said that polls were important to use in a story because it gives people a sense of how popular the issue is. He also said, however, that they are frequently wrong and that it is hard to decide how important a poll is to the story. The hardest part in including a poll is to answer for people how much weight they should attach to the poll when he isn't sure himself, Belden said.

"The most important thing to consider is the organization," Belden said. He emphasized the importance of researching the organization behind the polling in order to use it effectively as a source. He said that it is important to read up on what other people have said about the organization and to get a feel for how the organization is regarded to the public.

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This page contains a single entry by takik001 published on November 11, 2012 2:19 AM.

Analysis: The use of numbers in a BBC News feature was the previous entry in this blog.

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