Monday, October 17, 2016

Why the Polls Will Prove Wrong

First off -- I want to assure those who have come to this blog only recently that its customary fare is not politics. Because that topic is normally so desultory, it usually does not provide the dose of leavening which I have decided (on my own, thank you) is the measure of a good blog.

However, once every two or four years, and certainly just before a presidential election, I make an exception. As we near Election Day this November 8, more of my posts will be devoted to that rite than to the traditional topics otherwise addressed here -- such as religion, the state of the Anglican Communion, the latest outrage from the (amalgamated) Episcopal Congregations in the US of A, and so forth, and so on.

And actually, I have to say: right now, the Presidential election is a rather lively topic, because it keeps shifting with every cycle of the news.

To listen to the mainstream media, the election is already over -- Hillary has won, and it's just a matter of her adding even more States to her unstoppable haul than the number she has already bagged -- a number which (they assure the gullible) is more than sufficient to guarantee her a majority in the Electoral College.

One has to take into account, however, the sources of these claims, which are mostly the polls conducted by all the interested organizations -- from independent polling outfits to the major news media themselves.

To see what might be wrong with their data, consider this question: just how does a poll-taker obtain (and record) a voter's supposed preference for a particular candidate?

The best overall summary I have found on how polls are conducted is presented in this set of FAQs. Read it through carefully, and note the following takeaways:

1. Polls are ordered and approved by the customer, not by the voters themselves. This is perhaps the biggest source of bias: the customer gets the final say on how, and to whom, the poll questions are phrased, and those two factors determine in large part how the questions are answered.

2. Polls reach, for the most part, only those of us who still have land lines (not cell phones). This obviously leaves out most of the younger generation, for the reasons noted in this report.

3. There is no reliable method to coordinate the number of potential voters polled with the number of them who will actually vote in the election. Again, as explained in the FAQ linked above, the accuracy of any poll in this regard will depend on what questions and what survey audience the customer agreed to pay for -- and even then, there is no guarantee that someone who tells a pollster that he or she "intends to vote" will actually do so. This is why the most accurate polls historically have been based on the exit polls taken of persons leaving the polling booths -- but you will learn of those only late on Election Day, and even then they are still subject to inaccuracies, because many voters will not agree to be so polled.

4. How the pollsters decide to call numbers does not guarantee a representative sample of actual voters. This is perhaps the biggest source of error of all in published polls compared to actual election results. People contacted who disclose that they have not voted in recent elections, for example, may be excluded from the tallies because on the basis of such an answer, they are not a good fit with those who may fairly be expected to vote in this next election.

5. This election is not your "typical" election. The next election will not be any "election as usual" -- may we all please agree on that? There are, I dare say, more people now motivated (by a lack of any sense of connection, by feelings that they have previously been excluded and discounted, by mainstream media propaganda that their votes could just not matter in any case, etc.) to vote in this election, who have not felt any compunction to do so previously, than the ones whom the pollsters will manage to reach by their limited methods.

In conclusion: take the daily "poll" news with a very large grain of salt, and do not let the headlines affect your voting decisions. Note that the poll results advertised (for the reasons given above) almost certainly will not include the opinions of these people, nor (thank goodness, in this case!) of these people (who will never, you may be confident, vote in any election).

Do not, therefore, think you should not bother to vote because the mainstream media all declare this election is already in the bag for Hillary Clinton. They are trying simply to predetermine the outcome by discouraging you from thinking that your vote could, and will most likely, matter: there are, for instance, far more interesting scenarios that could play out in the weeks to come.

But those alternative scenarios are highly dependent on one thing: that YOU get out and vote. So do not become despondent, and do not let the media's barrage make you believe that your individual vote could not possibly matter: it does, and will, particularly with regard to the future of this country.

And for those among you who are still not decided just how you should vote, don't worry. The election is still 21 days away, and a lot can, and will, happen, before you have to make your choice. Your Curmudgeon is willing at this point to declare that on no account could he ever consider recommending voting for the status quo, because to contemplate such a continuation of everything as it has been thus far is, to say the least, depressing beyond measure.

At the same time, he is keeping his powder dry, because he fully expects that by the time November 8 comes around, the picture will be a lot clearer (if not improved). So say tuned, and keep praying for your country.


  1. "Do not, therefore, think you should not bother to vote because the mainstream media all declare this election is already in the bag for Hillary Clinton."

    That's good advice for either side.

    " to contemplate such a continuation of everything as it has been thus far is, to say the least, depressing beyond measure."

    We have a lot of problems now, but we shouldn't kid ourselves that things couldn't be worse. Look at the twentieth century from 1914 to 1950. It was much, much worse.

    Materially Americans are pretty well off, compared to just about anybody else at any time in history.

    Material goods aren't everything, of course. For Christians they are arguably the least important. We shouldn't forget that, for whatever reason, God willed that Jesus live and the early Church begin in an impoverished backwater under the most despotic government imaginable.

    Whatever the fault of governments, past, present or future, they do not govern the life of the Spirit. We are free in a way that secularists cannot imagine. So, though I understand getting depressed about things--I don't want to pretend that I don't feel the same way, even from a slightly different perspective--I still take some comfort in occasionally telling myself to snap out of it. We should be good citizens, and do the best we can for our country. But we also really have no reason to despair, even if the worst (whatever that means to each of us) happens.

  2. Early voting begins here Thursday, as with every election in the past 50 years, I will be voting. Holding my nose so hard it bleeds, but voting. Sadly, my own team has been doing the best job of voter suppression in that same half century, of its own voters.

  3. I voted first in the Isenhour/Stephenson election, and have voted in every one since, Democrat till Goldwater, then as an Independent since, as Republican Party moved too far Left. This may be my last vote. I wish I had a better choice, but it is "NEVER Hillary". I was in AR when "they" were in power there! My best vote was for Senator Tom Coburn, and I favor an Article V Convention. What ever happened to the 10th Ammendment?! I haven't heard it mentioned in this campaign.

  4. My Congressman was explaining polling data to me the other day and related the story of one world renowned pollster who he spoke with as the Brexit vote went down. The pollster was at Tony Blair's place and was stunned by the fact that he was off by 14 percentage points having never erred to such a degree. While I personally feel that Hillary is ahead, my feelings are influenced by what I read, and what I read can't be trusted.

    1. Some caution about feeling in an optimistic mood about the potential errors of polls this time around: Point number 2 of this useful blog's FAQ "takeways" clearly doesn't lend itself to interpreting polling results in favor of candidates who tend to support positions considered as conservative. This follows from the fact that landline telephones are far more common in households of older Americans than in households of younger Americans, and, thus, the results of phoning older Americans contacted by landline phone would be expected to indicate a higher support of support for candidates who tend to support positions considered as conservative than might be disclosed from polling using other methods. However, as also stressed in the blog, no potential polling distortion(s) should be received as a satisfactory rationale for refraining from voting in an election.

  5. It is true that we can't trust the media because they're all willing to tell lies.

    Americans are not, spiritually speaking, better or worse off than even in Biblical times, but more Americans may have appeared to agree with the Bible's wisdom than they appear to now. Our founding documents set the stage for a religiously 'Christian' America'.

    Currently, a few facts are important to note, churches are a target to remove God (Bible) from their pews, people are put out of their work and are (in fact) bullied if they refuse to go along with 'gender' conformity issues and there's also this seriously flawed ideal: Islamic Terrorism should not be mentioned.

    On news about terror attacks, for example, one of the articles I saw about the trash can bomber in New York was on Yahoo's news page (headlined): One Muslim came out strongly against this attack saying "my first thought was 'Oh God, don't let this be a Muslim.'"

    I take screenshots of Yahoo's top news page, but I do not click to read their articles (for two years now.) But that headline should've made people stop and say, WAIT A MINUTE HERE! Why didn't he cry out 'Oh God, please help those poor victims of this heinous crime?' The same thing happened after the Boston Bombing when a Muslim woman tweeted something similar. The Muslim leadership in America is worried about its stupid reputation? Americans have also been guilty at times in its history of the same sort of stupid thinking but we've done a better job trying to rid ourselves of thinking such things than most other countries.

    When there are terror attacks (the authorities are fairly certain of the crimes), we read headlines that indicate they don't know if there's been another 'terror' attack. Then we find out the details as soon as they're made available and like magic, it is revealed that there's been another 'terror-related' attack by just another crazy person. The FBI holds the information from the public and works WITH the media. Then we find all of the connections that people make in the places of worship and in their communities.

    Finally, THAT HRC needs the press to hold her hand in order to get her elected is depressing just thinking about it. Hillary supported the PLO back in the day, but no one mentions it. She strongly supports funding everything Obama has done.

    That mess will be her America, and it is enough to make me vote for the unusual Trump/Pence team.