Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sliding Down the Polling Razorblade

Polls are informative but they are also the basis of some bias.  From the Huffington Post article by Mark Blumenthal about polls:

"The dirty little secret of telephone surveys now conducted by most media outlets is that their unweighted samples alone cannot provide reliable estimates of population demographics like race and Hispanic ancestry. A dramatic fall in response rates has led to what pollsters call "non-response bias" in their raw data. Partly because survey response rates are typically lowest in urban areas, unweighted samples routinely under-represent black and Hispanic Americans."

Hence the sometimes seemingly poor tracking of public opinion by the polls.  The more a poll leans in a direction the more it seems it is believed.  That is, when a poll serves to bolster a particular position the more often it is cited.  This about far from what the pollster is trying accomplish as it gets.  Polls do not or perhaps should not lead opinion... but, often enough they do.

Huffington Post article

By the end of this read you will have to allow that the pollsters are doing their level best to account for a ton of input and not, in any way, lead us down a primrose path.  But in the end there is a bunch more science that will tweak  and refine this in the future.  The best we can hope for is that the presentation of the massive data gathered will show us how to manage the brain plug poll junkies need.

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