Wednesday, January 9, 2008

1-9-08: Polling

Yesterday was another example of how unreliable most polls really are. Despite all the statisticians' and pollsters' best efforts in predicting the winner of the Democratic Primary, they got it wrong. The excuse I heard was that it could have been late voters who voted for Hillary because they heard she cried. Isn't that something. People were swoon by Hillary and threw off the numbers that much. One poll had Obama up by 13%. She would have had to cry enough to fill a river that would rival the Mississippi to sway voters by that much. And... wouldn't some voters go AGAINST her as well? Some people see that as weakness.

Excuses like that only hide the fact that many polls are entirely inaccurate and unreliable. Exit polls are usually poor ways to know, and phone polls are just a joke. Case in point: people have been known to change their vote every time they receive a call from a pollster. Today, they might say Obama, tomorrow Hillary, and Friday they could be all for Edwards, or maybe McCain! People aren't as honest as they should be, and annoyed people who are polled almost daily will lie out of spite.

The other issue is that the same people who are polled are not often the same people who vote. Some people just don't vote, others change their mind before the election. Polls simply aren't that predictable.

I think the biggest issue isn't the methodology, it's the overuse of polls in general. Every news organization has their own poll that they do, because they don't just want to report the news as it happens, they want to predict the news. It's just one step up for the paying customer. Why wait? We've got it all set out for you! It's bad enough that they do all of our thinking for us nowadays with all the talking heads deciphering the topic of the day (did you ever stop to think how reliable a former lawyer or a former industry professional can really by?), now they're coming up with the news before it even happens. Just tell me when it happens, and stop feeding the polls down my throat.

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