The question of polling and its place in reporting is something that has always interested me. I believe that journalists frequently rely too heavily on political polling in particular, and forget to ask the same tough questions of the data and how it was acquired as they do in other stories. That has always been the case, but like almost everything else, it is way more complicated in an age of internet and cellphones. The polling industry has had to adapt its methods to get truly representative samples. If you are a polling skeptic, read this Pew explanation of new methods and how they are stacking up. Being poll-literate is an important component of overall media literacy. And of course, as you will read -- it is complicated. Here’s the Pew article.
And if you really want to know how to analyze polls, here is a handy checklist I have used for years. It’s from the National Council on Public Polls: 20 questions a journalist should ask about polls.