Abstract

Election forecasts have traditionally been based on representative polls, in which randomly sampled individuals are asked who they intend to vote for. While representative polling has historically proven to be quite effective, it comes at considerable costs of time and money. Moreover, as response rates have declined over the past several decades, the statistical benefits of representative sampling have diminished. In this paper, we show that, with proper statistical adjustment, non-representative polls can be used to generate accurate election forecasts, and that this can often be achieved faster and at a lesser expense than traditional survey methods. We demonstrate this approach by creating forecasts from a novel and highly non-representative survey dataset: a series of daily voter intention polls for the 2012 presidential election conducted on the Xbox gaming platform. After adjusting the Xbox responses via multilevel regression and poststratification, we obtain estimates which are in line with the forecasts from leading poll analysts, which were based on aggregating hundreds of traditional polls conducted during the election cycle. We conclude by arguing that non-representative polling shows promise not only for election forecasting, but also for measuring public opinion on a broad range of social, economic and cultural issues