You Ask, We Answer: How The Times/Siena Poll Is Conducted

What can we learn from a poll at this stage of the election?

Polls can give us important insight into how people’s views on the issues, the state of the country and the candidates may affect how they vote. Polls have helped us understand how motivating issues like abortion and immigration are for Americans, how the war in Gaza is perceived by Democrats and Republicans, and how many voters believe misinformation.

A poll taken today is a snapshot of how voters feel. But we expect that things will change between now and Election Day as priorities shift, candidates make their cases and the decision feels more real for voters.

Even so, a poll done at this stage can help us understand how voters are assessing the candidates and the issues at play. When we ask the same questions over time, we may be able to see how candidates’ actions and behaviors are affecting voters’ views.

Whom do we talk to, and how do we reach them? Do you call cellphones?

The New York Times/Siena College Poll is conducted by phone using live interviewers at call centers based in Florida, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Respondents are randomly selected from a national list of registered voters, and we call voters both on landlines and cellphones. In recent Times/Siena polls, more than 90 percent of voters were reached by cellphone.

One of the most common questions we get is how many people answer calls from pollsters these days. Often, it takes many attempts to reach some individuals. In the end, fewer than 2 percent of the people our callers try to reach will respond. We try to keep our calls short — less than 15 minutes — because the longer the interview, the fewer people stay on the phone.

Is a phone poll really still a good way to reach people?

Phone polls used to be considered the gold standard in survey research. Now, they’re one of many acceptable ways to reach voters, along with methods like online panels and text messages. The advantages of telephone surveys have dwindled over time, as declining response rates increased the costs and probably undermined the representativeness of phone polls. At some point, telephone polling might cease to be viable altogether.

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