Rallies or Polls – Which is Better for Understanding, Predicting, and Winning Elections?

Today you see President Donald Trump (R), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) with multiple big rallies. That is a very health sign for their campaigns.

The poll leader and former Vice President Joe Biden is leading strongly in the polls but often has very small, considerably less successful, rallies. Much like Hillary Clinton early in 2016.

In the last presidential election Hillary Clinton was leading in all but one national poll:

Dated Aug 2016

Source: Fivethirtyeight.com

Trump had many massive rallies. Clinton had many small events.  Here we examine the advantages and disadvantages of rallies and polls.


Advantages to Rallies:

  • Rallies can have “significant multiplier effects.” One study claimed for each attendee the campaign received between 7 and 14 additional votes.
  • Rallies get people politically activated which can have strong lasting effects on future contributions, polling, participation ideology and more.
  • It is considered one of the best ways to influence public policy.
  • Rallies in a district can increase not only a candidate’s vote share, but also reduce a competitive candidate’s share by up to 3 times their own gain.
  • Rallies can be targeted to specific locations in districts or states where you want an increase in votes.
  • Testing messages in front of a live audience is one of the best ways to see and understand your audience reactions.
  • Rallies are also an important indicator of how well you’re persuading voters.
  • When you get in front of the voter in his neighborhood you make it more personal to them.
  • People that come to rallies often waiting for hours in line. This is the type of citizen who almost always votes.


  • Bad weather can affect participation up to 60%, especially if it’s raining and an outside event.
  • Coordination and set up of rallies costs a lot in time and manpower.
  • A poorly attended or produced rally can lead to bad press.
  • Your competitor is probably filming your rally.



  • You can get specific feedback.
  • You can ask questions in different ways to learn how better to frame your message.
  • You can test how the public feels about a particular issue, idea or your message.


  • Polls are often not treated as objective. Respondents viewed polls as more credible when majority opinion matches their opinion.
  • There is evidence of attitude polarization and such biases could constrain the possible impact of polls.
  • Political polls often underestimate their uncertainty.
  • It is far less personal than rallies.

In summary we believe that massive successful rallies are often leading indicators to the health of a candidate and that traveling to voters is the key to a winning campaigns.  Polls are more of a snapshot measurement and will only be trusted if they are perceived as unbaised.

Remember, when you see a large successful rally, with for example 10,000 in attendance, think in your head that all the people from that rally will reach anywhere from 70,000 to 140,000 voters in a positive way.

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Jay Black

I try to write fact based articles that most people won't. Lets improve this world including both Corporate and Government malfeasance. If you have a lead about a ethical failure please comment on my article or in many of my comments.

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