by Christopher Cooper
As the primary season kicks into full gear, we can expect a barrage of internal polls purporting to show one candidate with a “commanding lead” in the upcoming primary. One such poll from Madison Cawthorn made the rounds yesterday. The press release reporting the results noted that Cawthorn “dominates” the NC-11 primary field and “holds an 80% GOP approval rating”(1).
My goal here is simple: to convince you to ignore internal polls. I’ll use Cawthorn’s recent internal poll as an example, but this is not a phenomenon limited to Madison Cawthorn or to the Republican Party. I’ve seen untrustworthy internal polls from Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated candidates. The rare Green or Libertarian candidate who can afford internal polling is subject to the same critiques.
Primary election internal polling is unreliable and uninformative because of three factors: selection, lack of disclosure, and uncertainty.