Have Political Polls Outlived Their Usefulness?
You remember the good ole days. Before politicians took a stand they would poll their constituents to see which way the political winds were blowing.
So a national polling company calls about 1,000 likely voters and their positions are assumed to be gospel.
After all, the polling companies know exactly how to interpret the information and convert it into a map of political thinking.
Then the politician can come out with a carefully prepared statement aimed as those who strongly agree or strongly disagree with the issue at hand.
The rest could go pound sand.
Are Answers Accurate?
I’m trying to remember the last time I answered a poll or survey honestly. After all I didn’t want to give the pollster the wrong impression of me as a person.
I might fudge my age, education or income.
I certainly didn’t want this stranger on the phone that I’ve never met and never will meet to somehow get the wrong impression that I might be racist, a bigot, homophobic, or Islamophobic.
So most respondents will be very milk toast in their answers.
Is Trust In Polls Waning?
One of the most famous newspaper headlines of all time is that of Harry Truman holding a November 3, 1948 copy of the Chicago Tribune with the headline Dewey Defeats Truman.
The Tribune believed the early reports from the political pundits of the day and in their hast to be first with the story were proven embarrassingly wrong. Truman won.
Many polls predicted that based on early polling Romney would beat Obama. That of course also proved incorrect.
Pollsters didn’t see the Republican wave to take back the senate and increase their hold on the House in 2014.
Polls had Sanders losing badly to Clinton in Michigan by as much as 21 points. Sanders won by a slim 1.5 percent margin.
Overseas Polls Also Take A Beating
Voters rejected Scottish Independence that polls predicted would pass. Conservatives in Britain and Netanyahu’s Likud party also stumped the pollsters by losing.
What’s Going Wrong?
Pollsters are discovering that old practices that used to work as now skewing the results.
For example if 3 percent of those polled were black but the total sample size is 12 percent then pollsters would weight the answers by blacks with a weight of four.
But what if the three percent didn’t think the way the other 11 percent thought?
That would mean the results could be off by a factor of half or more.
Pollsters also weight answers by women, income, education, etc.
Rasmussen Reports allegedly lean Republican while Public Policy Polling (PPP) allegedly leans Democrat.
One of the biggest problems current pollsters face is a rapidly declining number that want to answer political questions or take part in polls.
That leaves you with a sizable number of kooks and poll junkies.
Some Final Thoughts
If you’re wrong then there is plenty of blame to go around. Pollsters blame cell phones, people fudging answers on surveys, social media, that all play a part in a more informed yet cautionary vocal electorate.
My personal view is that society in general has been so handcuffed by political correctness that many just opt out rather than speak their mind to anyone outside their comfort group.
That’s a very sad commentary on our freedom of speech protection. If your fear of the thought police is so powerful that it curtails your ability to speak freely then polls are essentially useless.
What’s your opinion of polls?