The Perfect Pollster Cocktail: 1 part Margie, 1 part Kristen, 2 part poll results, and a dash of pop-culture = a balanced purple political podcast
Two women — that’s right, no typos here — who happen to be two of America’s leading pollsters, formed a bipartisan duo to dissect the latest results in tech, politics and pop-culture opinion polls. It wasn’t long ago when men hosted the majority of the top 100 most popular podcasts (70%, to be exact), and yet today, I am listening to The Pollsters, currently listed in the Top 30 “News and Politics” category on iTunes, led by two women.
We live in America. It’s 2016. So, everyone is entitled to their opinion, right? Yet, the majority of the time, we don’t want to hear those opinions. (Sorry/not sorry, crazy Trump-loving uncle.) This stands true even your favorite talk show or news channel has slowly become an unbearable source of information and option with the constant bickering.
The Pollsters get that. Each week, they deliver a compilation of the latest opinion poll results, and they stick straight to the data. The Pollsters, democrat Margie Omero and republican Kristen Soltis Anderson — former writers at Pollsters.com, now Huffington Post — do their best to avoid possible bias, resulting in an easy-to-digest buffet of what the American public is thinking in real-time.
Since February 2015, The Pollsters has been keeping tabs on the biggest polling stories along with the support of occasional guests, such as Mark Blumenthal (Senior Polling Editor, Huffington Post) to discuss the evolution of polling, and Robert Jones (CEO, PRRI) to discuss the hot topic of millennials and sex.
Perhaps one of the best features of The Pollsters is the beautifully compiled list of show notes, with hyperlinks to the studies discussed in each episode. This site is full of gems, with one being my favorite: “Not-so-guilty pleasure: Viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, IU study finds.”
Episode duration tends to vary, but can usually be pretty lengthy, ranging from 30 minutes to over an hour. While there is undoubtedly something for everyone each week, the majority of the podcast takes a deep-dive into the American political climate, particularly the presidential election, and arguably a topic both hosts are more than qualified to discuss.
Listening to The Pollsters is my way of escaping from the same playing-the-same-top-ten-songs-on-the-radio routine during my commute to work. And, the co-hosts stick to numbers without inserting their standpoints, resulting in a fresh new view regardless if you are up to speed with the current political news. But, there is one caveat: The opening tune sounds like an early 2000’s dial tone. If you can make it past those first three seconds of this horrible sound each episode, then you’ll love what else is in store.
What does a typical episode look like? Here’s a glimpse: Omero and Anderson begin by analyzing the political headlines, discussing what the climate looks like for the presidential candidates and how poll results are holding up. Sometimes, they uncover discrepancies or bounces in results, analyze what could have caused the bounce from the previous week, and predict what’s coming in the weeks ahead. The section is packed with deep dialog and political/electoral info that I can guarantee you haven’t heard before. Episode guests were sporadic, but nonetheless provided great insight into current topics and the process of polling in general. However, I found I needed something more consistent. I was happy to discover that, after the 50th episode, Omero and Anderson expanded to a twice-a-week episode format, with separate episodes specifically for interviews and weekly poll headlines.
The duo then dives into American social issues, though they tend to stay on the surface. Take a listen to Episodes 10, 17 and 80 respectively, and you’ll find discussions such as the varying levels of confidence with the police among black and white Americans, college sexual assault statistics, the current public opinion on firearms, public education, and more. Together, the co-hosts explain how a political stance can stretch in different circumstances. Additionally, they tend to uncover methods used to obtain poll results and what could have been done differently to provide better insight.
To lighten things up, Omero and Anderson discuss some fun poll results, still keeping everything rooted in data. Examples of this include: a the study that showed 57% of Americans don’t know that the Grand Canyon is in Arizona(seriously??) And the news that everybody has been dying to hear: Harambe’s favorability ratings, compared to the presidential nominees, are finally in! (See the results here.)
I really enjoyed the interview with Ron Brownstein (Senior Political Analyst, CNN), and apparently, the rest of The Pollsters listeners agree because it is their top-downloaded interview ever. I’d hate to provide any spoilers, but I highly recommend you tuning in. As is true with the rest of the podcast, if you pay close enough attention to the numbers, you’ll learn something new. In this particular episode, Brownstein introduces a Trump strategy that you may never have heard before… and it actually makes sense.
If you’re still not sold on The Pollsters, let me put it this way: You’re the type of person that wants to be well-versed and opinionated on a variety of topics, but you don’t want to dedicate the time to learning everything first-hand. You want to be the one that everyone at the cocktail party is crowding around as you spout off impressive statistics. Omero and Anderson cite one reviewer in their podcast who does an excellent job at describing why the show is perfect for just about anybody: “I don’t follow politics, I’m not a statistician, I don’t work in research — I just made an exercise of learning something new, and I stumbled upon The Pollsters.” Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, political junky or you could care less, there is something for you to learn and perhaps agree upon on the show. Give The Pollsters a listen and let us know what you learned!