Vanderbilt University regularly conducts polling of Tennessee political and cultural issues through their Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Their most recent poll has just been released and is getting a lot of media attention. Sadly, the new poll reveals the same pattern of questionable methodology, inaccuracy and political irrelevance that should actually embarrass the University.
Previous polls have focused on registered voters rather than likely votes, have been constructed with a favorable tilt towards Democrats in statewide polling despite Tennessee being a solid Republican state, and have usually polled for ridiculously long periods of time that no credible pollster would consider reasonable. For example, their last poll had a scant 7 point margin for Republicans over Democrats and was conducted over eighteen (18) days!
Accuracy? In October 2016, just a few weeks before the Presidential campaign concluded, Vanderbilt claimed Trump was leading Clinton by an 11 point margin (44-33 percent). Trump won by 26. In May 2012 Vanderbilt claimed Mitt Romney had a tiny one-point lead over incumbent President Barack Obama in Tennessee; Romney carried the state by over 20 points. In 2018, Vanderbilt said Bredesen had a one-point lead over Blackburn in their poll just two weeks before Election Day. She won by eleven. That same poll said Lee lead Dean by 11 points; Dean lost by 21. At least Vanderbilt is consistent…they miss the actual election results by double digits virtually every single time!
Yet, despite their incredibly flawed past, Vanderbilt University has outdone themselves with the newest polling of Davidson County. This time the didn’t even poll registered voters, simply “adults.” The didn’t poll over 18 days. Instead they chose to conduct their poll over almost an entire MONTH — and relied on phone calls, mail, and the internet to elicit their responses. As to the political leanings of those polled claiming to be Democrats. President Donald Trump received 34 percent of the vote in Davidson County in 2016. And Governor Bill Lee received 32 percent against former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
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Ward Baker, who ran Senator Marsha Blackburn’s successful double-digit win over Phil Bredesen last year — as well as past service running winning National Republican Senatorial Committee campaigns across the country, also questions the validity of the Vanderbilt University polling.
Baker rightfully points out that the Vanderbilt “poll” is an insult to pollsters everywhere! And he provides the documented data to back that up. Even if nobody anywhere ever confuses him with Fabio, you can’t question Baker’s political experience and acumen. The same cannot be said of the Vanderbilt Political Science Department, which may be why Hollywood celebrities NEVER try to bribe their kids into the Vanderbilt Political Science Department — and why NOBODY should take their polls seriously.
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Steve Gill is Political Editor of the Tennessee Star.
Photo “Vanderbilt University” by Vanderbilt University.