For whom the poll airs comparing poll results to television poll coverage

Kathleen Searles, Martha Humphries Ginn, Jonathan Nickens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Televised election coverage is increasingly dominated by the horse race, a key element of which is poll coverage. How do news outlets decide which poll to air? We know little about the gatekeeping function of news outlets as it pertains to poll coverage, perhaps because this research is plagued by selection bias: By observing only reported polls and not unre-ported polls, researchers cannot definitively establish that any differences in representativeness are due to bias. Using a novel dataset that includes all prime-time presidential election poll coverage on Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and broadcast television networks during the 2008 election, we compare the universe of polls released each day to the polls actually covered by each news network. We find differences between the distribution of poll coverage and distribution of actual poll results. Our results suggest that both gatekeepers and reporters may have a hand in this distortion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-963
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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