A Brief History of MRP Polling

What is MRP?

MRP Polling is an advanced approach to polling and market research that allows for stronger demographic insights, including electorate by electorate projections for a state or territory. This approach is not just a tool for political forecasting but a significant leap in how we understand diverse populations and their opinions. With the right guidance and expertise, it can be used to offer organisations and businesses greater insights at a lower cost than conventional means.

The Birth of MRP Polling

MRP polling is a relatively recent development in the field of public opinion research, tracing its roots back to the late 20th century, starting with the word of Academics, most notably Andrew Gellman and Thomas Little from Columbia University who were seeking more accurate ways of predicting election outcomes and understanding public opinion across different population subgroups. Traditional polling methods often struggled with accurately representing small or niche groups within larger populations. This led to the development of MRP, a methodology that combined advanced statistical techniques with poststratification to address these challenges.

The Methodology Explained

As the name suggests, MRP polling involves two key components: multilevel regression and poststratification. Multilevel regression is a statistical technique that allows researchers to model data collected from polls considering the hierarchical structure of the data (like individuals within states). This method accounts for variations not only at the individual level but also at higher levels such as geographical or demographic groups.

Poststratification is the second critical component of MRP. It involves dividing the population into distinct groups based on characteristics such as age, gender, race, and geographic location. The responses from the poll are then weighted according to the proportion of these groups in the overall population, ensuring that the sample accurately reflects the demographics of the larger population.

Early Applications and Challenges

The early applications of MRP were primarily in academic research, with scholars using the methodology to delve deeper into understanding public opinion on various issues.

However, its adoption in mainstream political polling and market research was gradual, partly due to the complexity of the method and the computational resources it required. As with any new development, many people were naturally skeptical and reluctant to adopt an unproven methodology

The Turning Point: Success in Political Forecasting

The real turning point for MRP polling came with its successful application in political forecasting. In one of the most famous instances, forecasters from Columbia University and Microsoft were able to utilise survey data from Xbox users to predict the results of the 2012 US election with a high level of accuracy.

As a cohort, Xbox users skewed heavily towards younger males – 65% of users at the time were aged between 18-29 and 93% were male – this was by no means a sample that represented the broader electorate, and yet by using MRP, the researchers were able to outperform many conventional polls.

This success helped spur the increased use of MRP, which has since been used to outperform conventional polls in predicting the results of the 2016 US election and 2017 and 2019 UK elections.

Advantages Over Conventional Polling

MRP’s primary advantage over traditional polling lies in its ability to provide accurate estimates for small or niche groups, which is difficult with standard polling methods.

This granularity allows for a more detailed understanding of public opinion across different segments of the population. Additionally, MRP can be more cost-effective, as it requires smaller sample sizes to achieve the same level of accuracy as larger traditional polls.

Find out more about how MRP polling can be used to help an organisation or business like yours.

The Future

The adoption of MRP has significant implications for political science, market research and the broader public.

It offers a more nuanced understanding of public opinion, allowing policymakers, researchers, and the media to gain insights into the views of various demographic and geographic segments of the population.

As technology and computational methods continue to advance, the application of MRP is likely to become even more widespread and sophisticated – and DemosAU will be at the forefront of that trend in Australia.

Find out more

At DemosAU, MRP polling is our speciality. Get in touch today to discuss how we can use it to deliver greater insights for your organisation.