Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

    Toon courtesy The Columbus Dispatch.

    This is not pure opinion. It’s driven by experience, education, how our presidential elections are actually decided, and common sense.
    Yes, “Polls are &%$!,” to avoid the more obscene version of “crap.”
    First let’s get to the most obvious. The presidency is not decided by popular opinion. It’s decided by the Electoral College, which historically skews results towards states with lower populations. So national popularity is nowhere near as much an influence as one might think. That’s the bad news.
    The worse news is pollsters should be polling state by state more, then weighing results in favor of states with more influence due to the College. Also showing how changes in state laws might affect results. Yes, I know: very complex. I guess it’s just easier to get almost meaningless national results, or add a few state results, but not translate it into the larger picture: adding them together correctly then showing how it each state, and all together, matter(s) to the election.
    But it’s even worse than that. Some states have decided, if they so desire, that results can be trashed if their election boards, their pols, just CLAIM the results aren’t legit, have been rigged… yada, yada, yada. There are all kinds of new laws and rules that have been passed that skew the elections in crucial states away from the voters. Skewing them towards the opinions, the claims, of those with a vested interest in giving the voters the middle finger if they’re unhappy with the results. Then they select their own electors.
    Democrat or Republican, we’re supposed to trust them. And, no, the election boards in these states are generally about as far from non-partisan as one can get.
    You think that’s the worst news?
    Ha, ha.
    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…
    Let’s get to the polls themselves. I took statistics in college. Part of my degree is how polls are taken, how to write objective questions that don’t influence the results. That meshed nicely with statistic courses I had to take. After that, out of college, I worked for about 5 years for a company called Quality Control Services: we polled everything from sink soap to radio station listeners, to politics. I also did polls at WSM (The Grand Ole Opry station) to decide song rotation. The polls at QCS were better because WSM only did telephone polls but QCS also did focus groups, on street interviews, door to door. There’s a formula that mixes them all and comes out with results that better reflect what the public wants/likes/prefers. Think of telephone polls like the base: the cake. The rest frosting and additional ingredients that make the cake more tasty, or in this case more reflective of what people want/feel.
    Those are the standard poll methods. Let’s take them on one by one; many years and many changes in society, later…
    How many people out there have landlines with no call screening? Telephone polls are pretty much useless: the best way to get big enough sample sizes. Yes, they could randomize numbers called and reach cellphones but once again… call screening. So forget telephone polls. A major means of getting a decent sample size is gone.
    Door to door? On the street? You know these days you’re risking poll takers lives and those willing do those kinds of surveys tend to skew the results, right? In a highly partisan environment there are far more people eager to have an influence on polls. The same with focus groups: they’re paying money to members of the group. That alone can skew results. Plus, it’s hard to impossible to get the kind of sample size needed with just those two. And some of the areas that should be polled are either gated or dangerous.
    Those I know still in the business tell me the skewed focus group member factor has increased. People who love to skew results in these highly partisan times. Polls worked better when we had less base-based politics. Politicians focus now more on their base and ways to tamp down the vote or get hyper turn out. Another reason to have margin of error, nose to nose… which also feeds into hate rhetoric and rhetoric that discourages voters.
    Then you have skewed pollsters who belong to organizations with a vested interest in certain results. Political party-based polls don’t do both polls for public consumption and internals polls because they love doubling their work load. Generally one is for show and influence, the other to see actual trends their candidates can respond to.
    Media polls? What motive could they have to skew them? Uh, more clicks, eyeballs, people on the edge of their seats… it simply doesn’t pay for them to show it’s NOT a nose to nose, margin of error, horse race. I swear every presidential election in the past few years has been that, only to find out later sometimes NOT.
    No matter what side you’re on, do you trust the polls? I don’t.
    Which is why this edition is named, “Polls are…”

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    “Inspection” is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 50 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
©Copyright 2024
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions.
All Rights Reserved.

By Ken Carman

Retired entertainer, provider of educational services, columnist, homebrewer, collie lover, writer of songs, poetry and prose... humorist, mediocre motorcyclist, very bad carpenter, horrid handyman and quirky eccentric deluxe.

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