Poll watchers sometimes obsess over small differences in topline numbers, even those within a poll’s reported margin of sampling error.
But those differences pale in comparison to the size of the differences noted above. For those living in a world which hangs on every 1- or 2-point shift in the polls, the range of results is jarring.
To pollsters, though, the variation isn’t all that unexpected, or alarming.
“It’s a bathroom scale, not a kitchen scale,” says Cliff Zukin, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University who wrote a guide to variance in polls for the American Association for Public Opinion Research ahead of the 2016 election. “It’s pretty good at measuring pounds, but it’s not good at ounces.”