Why the Discrepancies in 5th District Polls? - WSET.com - ABC13

Why the Discrepancies in 5th District Polls?

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Reporter: Josh Farmer

Lynchburg, VA - There are plenty of eyes on the Fifth Congressional District this election season, and that means plenty of ears are listening in- trying to gauge your honest opinion of the race.

State Senator Robert Hurt leads Congressman Tom Perriello in each of the six polls publicized in the last month, but depending on which poll you choose, his lead ranges from one point to 23.

These are all polls voters have seen in less than a month's time: same candidates, same pool of voters.

"It's important for people to remember that polls are not a science. They are a craft of estimating," Lynchburg College professor Joe Freeman said.

"Any poll is just a snapshot of a moment. Things can change very quickly, especially just before an election," Randolph College professor Dennis Stevens said.

It's not new around here.

That same SurveyUSA poll that has Hurt up 23, had then Congressman Virgil Goode up 35 in August 2008.

Goode lost by 727 votes.

Still, the numbers keep coming, and the candidates are paying attention.

"We now have four polls in two weeks that show us within a point and within the margin of error. And, I think what we see is: the moment is coming back our way," Rep. Perriello said.

Hurt Campaign Spokesman Amanda Henneberg said, "Despite the disparity, every single poll consistently shows Perriello trailing."

So, who's right?

"All the polls can be accurate, but, based on the questions that were asked and the kind of samples that they have," Stevens said.

Some use registered voters.

Others: Likely voters.

Some call during the day.

Others: Night.

Some include third party candidate Jeffrey Clark, others don't.

Some people lie.

Others don't answer at all.

Really, the most accurate may be the candidates' own polls, but, well...

"If you hear a poll from a campaign, it's because they want you to hear it," Freeman stated.

Both Congressman Perriello and state Senator Hurt said they see the polls, but don't use them for strategy. One place they agree: the only poll they really care about comes on Election Day.

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