Steve Gill Analysis: Why Does Anybody Give Any Credibility to the Vanderbilt Poll?

Steve Gill Analysis: Vanderbilt Poll

by Steve Gill


Vanderbilt University is out with another of their “polls”, conducted by the Center for the Study of Democratic Organizations, that is being greeted with breathless reporting of the results by some media outlets across Tennessee. Keep in mind that this is the same group that conducted a poll of 800 registered Davidson County voters over a twelve day period from February 8-19 (TWELVE DAYS?) that included a question focused on support for the Megan Barry Transit Plan. The “poll” revealed that Davidson County voters supported the plan by a solid 42-28% split, with 34% undecided.

Astute observers may remember that the Tennessean gleefully reported on the “edge” transit referendum supporters enjoyed, based on the poll.  However, the referendum was loudly rejected by voters 64-36%–a 28 point margin. So, the Vanderbilt poll only missed the actual results by a whopping 42 points! (The Tennessee Star poll showed a much more accurate 62-28% split in advance of the vote, with ten percent undecided.)

Now, Vanderbilt is out with another poll. This time they polled 1400 registered voters (not likely voters) over a thirteen day period (April 26 – May 8), with a slight skew towards Republican voters intended to reflect the political balance in the state. Tennessee is a state with super majorities of Republicans in the State House and State Senate. Seven of the nine Congressional seats and the Governor’s office are held by Republicans.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump carried 92 out of 95 counties en route to a 61-35% victory over Hillary Clinton, a 26 point margin. Yet the Vanderbilt Poll released just a few weeks before the 2016 election gave Trump a 44-33% edge over Clinton in the state.  Eleven points?

Vanderbilt constructed their most recent poll with a mere 7 point margin for Republicans over Democrats, with 32 percent identifying as Republicans, 31 percent as independents and 25 percent as Democrats. (Vanderbilt doesn’t disclose how many of the “independents” lean towards one party of the other.) Vanderbilt sees a dark red state as having a mere “pink tint”?

So, what kind of results do they generate from their bogus polling process? First, they apparently have no interest in asking who the respondents would vote for if the election were held today, the classic “horserace” question included in most political polls. They limit their interest to approval ratings and name identification, but not voter support for particular candidates.

Approval ratings and name identification are good data points to have, but why not make the key ask: “who are you voting for?” Instead of trackable results that can be compared over time to see if voters are shifting their support based on learning more about the candidates, and what issues produce the biggest gains or losses, we are left to guess who has support and at what level. Guesswork is not the usual end product you seek from polling.

Extrapolating support for Democrat Senate candidate Phil Bredesen (who has spent huge amounts on television ads in the last 60 days) versus Republican Marsha Blackburn (who has NOT been airing television ads) from “approval” numbers alone is essentially political malpractice. Quite simply, the polling process and reporting on the poll results is intended to IMPACT voter opinion rather than MEASURE voter opinion.

There are other red flags within the polling results, such as the supposedly overwhelming support for illegal immigrants and expansion of Medicaid (Obamacare). Other, more precise polling, doesn’t produce results that are even remotely similar to what Vanderbilt SAYS Tennesseans think.

The problems with the Vanderbilt poll have been consistent and well documented, yet they have made no effort to address the obvious biases built into their methodology. What is worse than the bad polling and track record of inaccuracy is the fact that mainstream media outlets across the state report the results as if they have any significant degree of credibility or relevance to the political process.

They don’t.

As long as those same media outlets continue to promote propaganda under the guise of “news” and bogus poll data as “fact” they shouldn’t be surprised to see the continued decline in readership/viewership, influence and credibility.








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9 Thoughts to “Steve Gill Analysis: Why Does Anybody Give Any Credibility to the Vanderbilt Poll?”

  1. Donna Locke

    The “poll” I saw a year before Trump was elected was everybody in a laundromat in small-town Columbia flocking to watch a TV screen when Trump started talking on Fox News. I knew then he would be president.

  2. Ralph

    Polls, schmols – unfortunately political decisions are driven more by emotion than fact. Fact-based decisions would overwhelmingly elect conservatives time and time again. The larger issue here is the indoctrination that these universities are pounding into young, impressionable minds. Young Americas Foundation ( is doing yeoman’s work in countering what has been a relentless leftist campaign spanning almost three generations…but ti’s just a start.

  3. lb

    I lost all respect for them when they threw Christian groups off campus and railroaded Carol Swain. They are so ultraliberal I dismiss anything with the name “vanderbilt” associated with it anymoreln

  4. Floyd

    You have to worship Saul Alinksy to be accepted at this over priced diploma mill and rape incubator. Their primary objective is to destroy morality, the constitution and America using dis-information just like Saul, B. Hussein Obama and Hillary.

  5. Lee

    It’s sad actually to see what the once prestigious Vanderbilt University has become. No credibility at all when it comes to these polls. Pretty non-American/Constitution in ideology!

  6. Brian McMurphy

    It’s meant to boost Democrat turnout and depress Republican turnout. It’s not really a poll since it has zero reliability. It’s only purpose is to teach tomorrow’s lying statisticians today as to how to engage in psychological warfare to achieve a preferred outcome.

    See also any MTSU poll, Nate Silver, et al.

    1. CM in TN

      Push Poll…you nailed it for what it is…

  7. Caldwell Hancock

    For what it’s worth The Hancock Poll of everybody I know and was able to ask a week before the vote indicated an against outcome of nearly two to one,which is pretty close to the actual outcome. That one was almost a no brainer. Stay tuned for my poll relative the upcoming Mayor race.
    Vanderbilt is a rich kids super liberal intellectual snob poll. It couldn’t possibly be worthy because it apparently fails to include Nashvillians from more humble beginnings who went to Nashville public schools.

  8. 83ragtop50

    Vanderbilt has lost credibility in virtually all fronts other than being an overpriced bastion of liberalism. Who on earth would believe anything that group of self-righteous idiots has to say?