Friday, November 6, 2020

The fundamental challenge for pollsters

Of the House election results this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman said, “Something went wrong here across the entire political world. Our polls, Senate polls, gov polls, presidential polls, Republican polls, public polls, turnout modeling, and prognosticators all pointed to one political environment—that environment never materialized.”

At first glance, this comment could sound like the problem was a matter of a projection bias or a feedback loop that got everyone thinking the same thing (“all pointed to one political environment”). While that may have been an issue, if that is the only conclusion reached, I think that will have missed a much deeper transformation that fundamentally undermines the very possibility of accurate polling.

Americans no longer just disagree about issues. We now have a critical mass of people who believe that disagreement isn't just a matter of opinion differences, but of character flaws. People aren't just considered wrong or misguided; they're considered bad people with no option for salvation or redemption, only removal from the national conversation.

They want anyone who disagrees to be deplatformed, fired, made unhireable, and unable to be a free citizen if they don't cooperate. There are a variety of strategies, with names such as cancel culture, safe spaces, and virtue signaling, that have been used to pressure people into silence and out of having a voice in the culture.

Perhaps this may come as a surprise to those in the elite echelons of our culture who see nothing wrong with this course of action, but those who have been victims of this strategy are frustrated with being silenced. Still seeking to have a voice, people can channel that emotion by shifting their voice from where it has been excluded into where it still clearly can be heard: the secret ballot in the polling booth.

We are long passed the point when numerous conservatives who have been silenced and have seen others silenced are willing to take solace in talking to a pollster. Many now actively avoid giving any polling feedback altogether. Pollsters may engage in self-justification saying intimidation concerns shouldn't matter given the anonymous nature of polling. That misses the point. Participating in a poll is about influencing the national conversation. What's the point of trying to influence a conversation when conversation is not allowed or is shut down? This cultural change is a fundamental challenge to the practice of polling.

The “environment never materialized” because the pollsters had an incomplete picture of the political environment. There are many in our nation who know their history and have seen what has happened to countries that disarm their people and infringe on their religious liberties. They want none of that, and while they may not be allowed to say that, they're still allowed to vote that.

One thing pollsters could begin doing to take this factor into account is to include in their results the number of people they reach who simply outright decline to participate. Start with a simple question of willingness to participate. At the very least this should increase the margin of error allowed in a poll.

If not, I guess they're welcome to pretend they have results that are +/- 3%, and continue to see those results found to be inaccurate. All of this, of course, assumes pollsters see their role as reflecting the culture. If their real intent is to change the culture, then maybe this week has simply been an unmasking of their attempted complicity in a larger agenda.

No comments:

Disclosure

Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links and earn commissions.

Your support is appreciated.

Blog Archive

Subscribe — Follow by Email