Saturday, December 12, 2015

IN PROFILE: Pollster Ann Selzer and Her Secret Polling Sauce

By Steven Shephard

At a time when trust in public polling has eroded after high-profile failures in elections across the country and around the globe, people in Iowa still have faith that one woman can accurately measure where things stand in next year’s volatile caucuses.

That woman, J. Ann Selzer, has predicted election after election in Iowa working out of a small office in the Valley Junction section of West Des Moines — between the Tres Amigos Mexican restaurant and Perry Bridal shop, and across the street from At the Heart of Quilting, a sewing-supply store

As the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News prepare to release Selzer’s latest survey of the GOP caucuses Saturday evening, how does the longtime Iowa pollster explain how she’s bucked the trend, even while acknowledging that conducting accurate polls becomes more difficult every cycle?
“I think it has to do with being more of a traditionalist, science-based pollster,” Selzer told POLITICO during an interview at her firm’s offices last month. “And because it has worked for me, I’ve not been tempted to go and try other methods. And because I have clients who are willing to pay the premium that it takes to do it this way, I’ve not had to cut corners.”

The recent track record of her firm, Selzer & Company, is impressive: Selzer, who has polled for the Des Moines Register for decades, was the only pollster to nail the order of Democratic candidates in 2004. Her final poll before the 2008 caucuses accurately predicted that a surge of first-time caucusgoers would propel Barack Obama to a decisive victory. Selzer saw former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s surge in the waning days before the 2012 GOP caucuses when few others did

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