Gallup Gives It Up   8 comments

So, this week, the Open Book Blog Hop is exploring polls. I set one up on Twitter to see what I got.

30 people took the poll. Most (40%) think my next published book should be a sci-fi (which Objects in View, book 2 of Transformation Project is categorized as a sci-fi dystopian) and a smaller number (33%) think it should be a mystery (which is funny because I am dabbling with a mystery).

So what did I learn from this poll? Well, go check out what my fellow blog hoppers found from their polls and then I’ll tell you.

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On October 7, 2015, the most famous brand in public opinion polling announced it was getting out of the horse-race survey business. Henceforth, Gallup would no longer poll Americans on whom they would vote for if the next election were held today.

This move followed an embarrassingly inaccurate performance in the 2012 elections and served to reinforce the perception that something has gone awry in polling in general and political polling specifically. Even the most experienced players are at a loss how to fix this problem. Heading into the 2016  election season, news consumers are facing an onslaught of polls paired with a nagging suspicion that their findings can’t be trusted. Over the last four years, pollsters’ ability to make good predictions about Election Day has seemingly deteriorated before our eyes.

Back in the day The Literary Digest would send out 10 million postcards querying who readers planned to vote for. They had managed to correctly predict that outcome of the previous four presidential races. In 1936, more than 2 million postcards were completed and returned.
Yes, 2 million! That is an astonishing survey sample by modern standard, which routinely draws conclusions from fewer than 1,000 interviews. From those responses, the editors of the Literary Digest estimated that Alfred Landon, Kansas’ Republican governor, would receive 57% of the popular vote and beat the sitting president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Roosevelt won the election handily—an outcome predicted, to everyone’s great surprise, by a young journalism professor named George Gallup. Recognizing that the magazine’s survey methodology was vulnerable to self-selection bias, Gallup set out to correct for it. Among The Literary Digest’s respondents in California, for example, 92% claimed to be supporting Landon. On Election Day, just 32% of ballots cast in the state actually went for the Republican. By employing a quota system to ensure his sample looked demographically similar to the voting population, Gallup got a better read despite hearing from far fewer people.

 

 

But in the 2014 midterms, in Israel, in the U.K., and in the 2015 Kentucky governor’s race, the polling has been so off that it is getting hard to escape the conclusion that traditional ways of measuring public opinion now appear incapable of accurately predicting outcomes the way they once did.

There are some simple reasons for this. Poll companies traditionally called people at home, but now landlines are rarer and most Americans, particularly young ones, only have cell phones. FCC regulations make it much more expensive to survey people via mobile phone. And then there are people like Brad and I who screen our calls and don’t leap up to answer when a pollster calls … or even my brother, who we love, but had better not call in the middle of a movie we’re enjoying.

Brad lies to pollsters when they catch him. He thinks its funny. A couple of days ago I was asked which will I vote for – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? There was no option for Neither and, being an automated poll, all I could do was wait for it to hang up on me. In 2012, I was asked (by a human) if I was voting for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. When I said “Neither. I’m voting 3rd party” the poll-taker didn’t know how to quantify my answer. Was I sure I wasn’t going to vote? “No, I’m voting, just not for either of them.” She ended up saying “Well, I just put you down as not voting.” SIGH!

 

The resultant low response and the manipulation by poll-takers overturns the philosophy behind probability polling, which holds that a relatively small number of people can stand in for the full population as long as they are chosen randomly from the larger group. If the people who actually take the survey are systematically different from those who don’t, the methodology breaks down.

So, maybe the pollsters need to draw the same conclusion I did, which is that my statistical sample is too small to be representative of my readers and Tweeps may not be book readers anyway. Maybe political pollsters need to find a way to survey 2 million or 20 million people in order to get a more accurate poll. Maybe they need to identify who is an actual registered voter (and therefore more likely to vote than someone who isn’t). Maybe they need to offer the option for 3rd party voting.

Or … maybe they need to rethink their whole methodology.

And, maybe, dear readers, you and I need to stop basing our political decisions on the polls. Vote for the candidate who most represents you. Pay no attention to the polls  because the only poll that actually matters is the election and maybe we would elect candidates who more closely represent us if that was the only poll taken.

Just a thought.

So, my next book will be a science fiction because that’s the book I promised my brother — the sequel to the book that made him a novel reader in his 60s. That’s a pretty powerful book, if you ask me. It’s under rewrite now, so changing would be a silly idea. My next book, however …. Maybe I need to freshen things up. Or maybe I’ll stick with what I really love, which is fantasy. I will probably end up writing the book I want to read because I’m not about to conduct my life based on a popularity contest.

What about you?

 

 

 

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Posted August 8, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

8 responses to “Gallup Gives It Up

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  1. YOU KNOW POLLS ARE SOMETHING LIKE THE WEATHER THAT GETS MANIPULATED THROUGH DARPA, AND HAARP. THINGS CAN CHANGE IN AN INSTANT, OR IT CAN REALLY THROW A TRICK QUESTION FOR THE METEOROLOGISTS. AS FAR AS HEALTH CARE, IT IS BACK TO OUR GREAT GRANDPARENT DAYS, OF HOME REMEDIES AND FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE. TO LIVE A LONG LIFE THESE DAYS IT IS A CURSE, WITH THE GLOBAL ELITE CABAL WANTING TO TURN THOSE OF US REMAINING INTO CYBORGS. I LIKE MY OWN DNA, I DO NOT WANT TO BE PART MACHINE; EVEN THOUGH, I HAVE TO CRANK MYSELF UP IN THE MORNING.

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    • I don’t know about DARPA (the military funding research doesn’t set well with me for a lot of reasons), but HAARP is just down the road from me here in Alaska and I have toured it. I covered its construction back when I was a reporter, but I’ve been there more recently as a chaperone for me son’s engineering class tour. It’s just a high tech aurora research station run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and funded by military agencies, including DARPA. It’s not really different from Arecibo in Puerto Rico or the now dismantled HIPAS Observatory that operated 40 miles from my home town for 30 years. My husband, by the way, was the heating system maintenance man for HIPAS for 15 years. Maybe I’m just used to this sort of research because I live in Alaska where Poker Flats has been shooting off barium rockets to excite the aurora — and research it — since before I was born. It’s hard science to understand. Very engineer-y, conducted by science geeks who don’t communicate in English very well, but it really is nothing nefarious.

      Although I’m pretty sure DAPRA is funding it in hope of discovering some weapons capability, that is not what it is currently being used for — despite what Nick Begich, Jr. may claim, Alaska has not experienced in increase in earthquakes. We have them all the time — always have, always will. It’s the nature of living in a seismically active state.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post, but I think people have become over-saturated with polls and surveys these days, and any response probably won’t give a true reflection of the majority.

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    • The polls tell people who to vote for, and the American media is influencing election outcomes with them. Donald Trump would not be the GOP nominee today if there had been no pre-primary polls. I suspect Hillary would not be the Democratic nominee. Martin O’Malley killed her in the debates, when they let him talk.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Polls are influenced by the company (or person) paying for them many times. They can word the questions to support the position they want. Also, people lie. 🙂 On a scale of 1-10, how much do I trust nationwide polls? About a 4.

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  4. At any given time on any given day, I may change my mind on some poll questions. The political ones, not, but others – “which is your favorite office supply?” , “Do you prefer cotton or silk?” etc. Depends on my mood and what has happened in the course of the day. So, I can see how they can’t be 100% accurate. Still, sometimes we can gleen a bit of information from them.

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