Wednesday, November 9, 2016
FLAWED POLITICAL POLLING
Dewey Defeats Truman, Internet Domain
Once again we have validated Human Behavior 101 revealing that those who don’t study history and learn from it are doomed to repeat it. Many of the political pollsters today have been apologizing to the American people about how badly their polling exercises left them with the flawed statistical opinion that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for our next POTUS! One of them this morning stated that they would have to go back and try to understand how this could have happened. I’m not at all familiar with all their polling methods and computer models but I have a theory and it starts back with the election of Harry Truman.
I’ve always liked the image of a good ol’ Missouri boy, Harry Truman, holding up a copy of The Chicago Tribune showing the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman!” It probably didn’t help that the newspaper had earlier referred to Truman as a nincompoop! What I remember from a college statistics class was that the headline was partly derived from a quick telephone poll of households. The serious flaw, however, was that it was a quick sampling of a biased demographic that could afford the new communications technology at the time and they were mainly Republicans. The common people of the time weren’t flocking to Dewey and that poll couldn’t reach them.
I’ve recently read that one third of our households including many young Millennials no longer have land lines because of the rapid expansion of the new technology cell phones. I’m one of the older demographics that still has both so that I have quick access to 911. I don’t yet receive harassing calls on my cell phone, but they sure come across my land line including those obnoxious robo calls. Fortunately, the new technology on my land line hand-held includes the standard “Caller ID” feature which lets me see either the caller name or number. If I don’t recognize it, I don’t answer the phone because it’s generally a harassment call like a political poll or message. If the call is important and the caller knows me, they’ll leave a message which I will promptly return. If not, the caller will drop the line or leave a message which I will quickly delete. My home is my castle and I resent the intrusions. I can make up my mind independent of a nuisance robo call.
If some of these latest political polls were taken via telephone land lines, here’s a problem. These pollsters missed a whole demographic of folks that no longer have a land line or use “Caller ID” on their land lines to their advantage and don’t answer the calls! And perhaps many of them didn't vote or didn't vote for Clinton.