What are poll internals?
October 31, 2008 11:19 AM   Subscribe

What does the term "internals" mean, as used when discussing political polls?

I've been rabidly following the election, but I'm mystified as to what a poll's "internals" are. They're mentioned all the time, as here on Talking Points Memo:

"The new numbers from Research 2000: McCain 48%, Obama 47%, with a ±4% margin of error. The key number from the internals is that Obama is winning the early vote by a 54%-42% margin, and this group is expected to make up 17% of the total likely voters."
posted by ocherdraco to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I always thought it referenced polls conducted by the campaigns themselves, which are therefore suspected of bias.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:24 AM on October 31, 2008

As I understand it, internal polls are the polls conducted or commissioned by the campaigns themselves, that is, not public polls. But I guess if you're reading about them...they're public now.
posted by zazerr at 11:26 AM on October 31, 2008

Best answer: There's a bit of confusion here. There are "internal polls" that are private to a campaign, and not for public dissemination.

However, as used at TPM above, the "internals" of poll refer anything other than the topline, generally reported result.
posted by piro at 11:37 AM on October 31, 2008

Best answer: I always thought it referenced polls conducted by the campaigns themselves, which are therefore suspected of bias.

It's not that they're biased, as such. A campaign has no reason to not know the truth about their own candidate. It's that they only release results that are good. So they can't be included in poll aggregations and such.

But internal polls are different from the internals of a poll. In this case, they are referring to the non-headline numbers. Like that cited poll released percentages on: men vs women, political parties, age, race, and whether they voted or not. Keep in mind: "The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as for gender or party affiliation."
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on October 31, 2008

Pollsters ask multiple questions. The term "internals" refers to the questions other than the basic "who do you plan on voting for?" For example, a lot of polls are asking questions like "Who is better on the economy?"
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:47 AM on October 31, 2008

The "internals of a poll" (race, age, gender, etc.) are actually called "crosstabs".
posted by BobbyVan at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2008

Best answer: Internals = everything that's not the headline number on a poll. And 'crosstabs' usually refers to breakdowns of questions by race, gender, age, party ID -- often with comparative breakdowns from previous polls.

The best way to see this at work is to look at the full reporting of a poll like this example [PDF], which will usually open with a summary of the headline numbers, then go through the questions that were asked and offer a demographic breakdown.
posted by holgate at 12:04 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, folks. The difference between internal polls and a poll's internals was the cause of my confusion.

Now I can rabidly follow the election and actually know what I'm reading. Four more days...
posted by ocherdraco at 12:06 PM on October 31, 2008

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