This thesis explores the relationship between public opinion polls and voter support and asks whether exposure to a public opinion poll creates an unfair advantage for the candidate winning in that poll. The experimental results from this study were used to test the hypothesis that exposure to an opinion poll, with a wide lead for one of two candidates, would cause voter support to increase for the candidate who was leading in the poll (i.e. a bandwagon effect). In 2012, a random sample of 101 registered voters in the NY 25th Congressional District participated in two telephone surveys. In each survey, voters rated their personal support for each of two congressional candidates on a five point scale. After the first telephone survey, respondents were randomly assigned to an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group received polling data that showed one candidate with a large lead over the other (59% to 41%); meanwhile, the control group received no such polling data. After voters in the experimental group received the opinion poll, both groups were called with a second telephone survey and again asked to rate their support for each of the two congressional candidates using a five point scale.
The change in voter support, from the first to the second telephone survey, was compared between the experimental and control groups, with results that failed to establish statistically significant evidence of a bandwagon effect among the voters who received polling data. A multinomial logistic regression analysis was also used to explore the results in more detail but still failed to establish statistically significant evidence of a bandwagon effect that was associated with exposure to polling data alone. Instead, the multinomial logistic regression analysis revealed evidence of a bandwagon effect among some voters who were considered predisposed to support the frontrunner in the poll (i.e. those who shared the same party affiliation and had a lack of other knowledge or information). However, this effect occurred only among a small subset of the final sample and was not statistically significant. In conclusion, this experiment found that exposure to polling data, whether on its own or in conjunction with other variables, did not significantly affect voter support either for the candidate winning or losing in the poll. While these results are limited to the sample of registered voters in this experiment, additional research would be necessary to draw more generalized conclusions about the relationship between exposure to opinion polls and voter support.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Voting research--New York (State)--Rochester; Public opinion polls--Research
Department, Program, or Center
Public Policy (CLA)
Knappen, Heather, "Capturing the Effects of Public Opinion Polls on Voter Support in the NY 25th Congressional Election" (2014). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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