Journal Article

ACCURACY AND ERROR IN ELECTORAL FORECASTS: THE CASE OF MEXICO

Ulises Beltrán and Marcos Valdivia

in International Journal of Public Opinion Research

Published on behalf of World Association for Public Opinion Research

Volume 11, issue 2, pages 115-134
Published in print January 1999 | ISSN: 0954-2892
Published online January 1999 | e-ISSN: 1471-6909 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/11.2.115
ACCURACY AND ERROR IN ELECTORAL FORECASTS: THE CASE OF MEXICO

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Forecast errors in preelectoral polls are common. Since the Nicaraguan Election in 1990, a common assumption is that where democratic practices are not equal to those of the developed countries (authoritarian, in transition, etc.), the errors in predicting electoral outcomes with the help of pre-electoral polls result mostly from contextual effects related to the authoritarian nature of the political systems. Forecast errors in developed democracies have been explained by flaws in sampling (Great Britain), last minute changes in preferences (Spain, United States, and France) and a social desirability bias in the United States. The intention of this paper is to show that in Mexico both the accuracy and the sources of error in predicting electoral results are very similar to those confronted by pollsters elsewhere: mostly sampling and allocation of nonrespondents and those who are undecided. An extensive data set of pre-electoral polls conducted in Mexico shows an average error in the order of 3–5 percentage points. Some of this error could be related to socially desirable answers derived from contextual effects, but this effect is small and must not be generalized.

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Subjects: Communication Studies ; Marketing ; Media and Communication ; Political Behaviour ; Social Research and Statistics

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