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uni'wissen 01(3)-2011_ENG

Opinion polls, projections, and trends: The findings of election research are an insepa- rable part of modern political discourse in the media, in parties and ministries, among voters. What is less well known is how the researchers arrive at these findings. For example: How is it possible to infer the opinions of 7.6 million eligi- ble voters before the regional elections in Baden-Württemberg from interviews with a group of just under 1,400 of them? Uwe Wag- schal, professor of comparative political science at the University of Freiburg, answered this question together with his students in an under- graduate seminar: At the end of February 2011, he and his young election researchers published an opinion poll that predicted the actual results of the election more accurately than any other poll conducted between December 2010 and the regional elections on 27 March 2011. “My goal was to give the students an idea of what election research involves from A to Z,” says Wagschal. In order to prepare the students for the empirical work, he invited electoral re- searchers from the polling and public opinion in- stitutes Infratest dimat, Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, and SIGMA as speakers. The students also received training in statistics, interviewing techniques, and the computer programs they would later use to collect and analyze the data. Project partners like the local newspaper Bad- ische Zeitung and the State Agency for Civic The University of Freiburg tops the charts: The graph shows the amount of percentage points by which the ­results of opinion polls deviated from the actual results of the 2011 regional election in Baden-Württemberg. It also shows how many parties the polls remained within the bounds of statistically tolerated deviations for the so-called confidence intervals. Graph: qu-int 9uni'wissen 03 0 % 13,4 % 11,7 % 11,4 % 10,0 % 10,0 % 9,6 % 9,2 % 9,2 % 9,0 % 8,8 % 8,8 % 8,8 % 8,4 % 5,2 % 5,2 % 4,8 % 4,4 % 3,6 % 3,4 % 3,2 % 3,2 %Uni Freiburg 26.02.11 Infratest Dimap 17.03.11 Emnid 25.03.11 Forsa 24.03.11 FGW 18.03.11 Emnid 20.03.11 Infratest Dimap 03.02.11 Emnid 27.02.11 Emnid 29.01.11 YouGov 25.03.11 FGW 04.02.11 Emnid 13.02.11 Emnid 12.03.11 Infratest Dimap 14.03.11 Emnid 20.02.11 Forsa 11.03.11 Forsa 02.03.11 Emnid 04.03.11 Infratest Dimap 02.12.10 Customer Research 26.02.11 Emnid 19.12.10 Sum of absolute deviations (CDU, The Greens, SPD, FDP, The Left) PollingInstituteandPublicationDate 2,5 % 5 % 7,5 % 10 % 12,5 % blue bar: all 5 parties within the confidence intervals gray bar: 4 parties within the confidence intervals red bar: 3 parties or less within the confidence intervals