Poll: How much do you like or trust public opinion polling?

After the first presidential debate on Wednesday, the political polling season is about to kick into high gear. Why polls matter, and why we like them so much.

Never mind the policy specifics and positions on the issues enumerated in last night's debate. What matters, as we all know by now, is who won. While the campaigns and political watchers fixate on how big Gov. Mitt Romney's debate bounce will be, here at Marketplace World Headquarters, we don't care about any of that stuff. Instead, we look closer at the polls themselves and how to think about them. Frank Newport is the editor in chief at Gallup. He has a bone to pick with critics who say that polls aren't accurate predictors of voter behavior. "So far this election throughout the primary season, the polls have actually been quite accurate," said Newport. "If they said Mitt Romney was going to win a primary, he in fact did win the primary. And if they said Rick Santorum was going to win, he did win as well." And you might not be surprised to learn, pollsters have asked participants the meta-question: What they think about polls. "People actually like polls," Newport said. "Americans have more confidence in the wisdom of Americans than in their elected leaders." That makes polling critical in Newport's view. "The only way you can pay attention to Americans is to poll them, because there are so many of us."

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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