Culture Mind Naturalism

Are polls scientific?

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Well, what happens when human complexity foils electoral predictions? From Denyse O’Leary (O’Leary for News) at Salvo:

The Pew polling group admits it was stumped by last November’s U.S. presidential election. The results “came as a surprise to nearly everyone who had been following the national and state election polling.” Most pollsters put Hillary Clinton’s chances of defeating Donald Trump at 70 to 99 percent.

Few will care if fashion critics call the hemlines wrong this season. But election pollsters consider their work both important and scientific: “Polling is an art, but it’s largely a scientific endeavor,” says Michael Link, president and chief executive of the Abt SRBI polling firm in New York City and former president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.2 That perception may help explain preeminent science journal Nature’s account of scientists being “stunned” and reacting to the results with “fear and disbelief.”

But the scientists’ response raises a question: Was the badly missed prediction a failure of the scientific method, or is opinion polling just not a science anyway?More.

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8 Replies to “Are polls scientific?

  1. 1
    Armand Jacks says:

    But the scientists’ response raises a question: Was the badly missed prediction a failure of the scientific method, or is opinion polling just not a science anyway?

    My vote is for the latter.

    Whenever I get a phone call to participate in a poll, I lie through my teeth. I don’t pay my phone bill so that I can earn money for polling companies.

  2. 2
    Charles says:

    The results “came as a surprise to nearly everyone who had been following the national and state election polling.”

    All the media associated polls were rigged with oversampling of Democrats and/or undersampling of likely voters. Such polls were designed to portray Hillary Clinton as the foregone winner by a landslide.

    Trump’s landslide was only a surprise to those Hillary supporters and pollsters who began to drink their own koolaid.

    Opinion polling certainly is not science. It is politics and money. It not designed to find out opinion, but rather to shape opinion, shape it in favor of whoever spends the most money.

    But as the Democrats found out, they were only shaping the opinions of other Democrats, and not Independents, Republicans and even quite a few minorities.

  3. 3

    The more likely answer, IMO, is that poll outcomes are scientifically designed to produce the outcomes desired by those paying for the polling. Polling is best seen not as a means for finding out what people think, but rather as an attempt to influence people into thinking what you want them to think.

  4. 4
    Armand Jacks says:

    The more likely answer, IMO, is that poll outcomes are scientifically designed to produce the outcomes desired by those paying for the polling. Polling is best seen not as a means for finding out what people think, but rather as an attempt to influence people into thinking what you want them to think.

    It is true that you will get different results based on the questions that are asked. And a well designed poll will have questions that are intended to assess consistency of response.

    But favourable political polls often have the affect of bringing the opposition out to vote in greater numbers. If I were a politician, I would not want to see polls published that showed that I had a lead. I would prefer the polls to show that my opponent had a slight lead.

  5. 5

    AJ,

    If you show your candidate in need of help, you will probably bring out more votes; but the problem with that thinking in terms of this past election is the highly energized nature of Trump supporters. Letting them think they have a chance of winning would only generate more enthusiasm and more votes.

    IMO, better to make it appear as if Trump had no chance whatsoever to win in an attempt to play on the very real concerns of a rigged system and depress the Trump turnout than give supporters the idea they could actually win.

    I voted for Trump but honestly thought he wouldn’t win. Especially after exit polling was said to indicate Hillary in a landslide. Of course I held such exit polling suspect, but I thought it was probably a conditioning tactic used in advance to sell the outcome of an election rigged for a Clinton win. It shocked me when I woke up and found out Trump had won such a decisive victory.

  6. 6
    Armand Jacks says:

    WM:

    If you show your candidate in need of help, you will probably bring out more votes; but the problem with that thinking in terms of this past election is the highly energized nature of Trump supporters. Letting them think they have a chance of winning would only generate more enthusiasm and more votes.

    Agreed. That is why I said that if I was a position I would want me to be slightly behind in the polls. Being way behind is likely to have the opposite affect in that my supporters would not see the point in coming out to vote.

    It shocked me when I woke up and found out Trump had won such a decisive victory.

    I think it shocked many people. Unfortunately, it is often the case that we often vote against someone rather than vote for someone. Watching the election from north of the Canadian border wall, it was my opinion that both the Democrats and Republicans selected the absolute worst possible candidates.

  7. 7
    aarceng says:

    Like @Armand Jacks I often lie to pollsters. I get too many junk phone calls to feel like cooperating.

  8. 8
    polistra says:

    No need for a study. The DNC emails showed us that polls are ordered and designed to reach specific conclusions, through intentional oversampling of known demographics.

    Scientists shouldn’t have been stunned, since this is exactly how Big Science acquires data. Maybe they were stunned to see that polls are just as corrupt as their own “data”?

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