Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Of numbers, polls, pollsters, and politics

I have little faith in polls. I question their accuracy and I frequently distrust what they purportedly reveal. To my disappointment, poll results never seem to disclose the how the questions were phrased. They tell me the question and usually, who(m) they questioned. The question and how it's phrased, along with the choice of replies is a piece of crucial information.

You've probably heard the saying about how a competent District Attorney can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich. I feel the same about polls. I've participated in polls and the choice of replies was usually two. If neither is what I wanted to reply, "Sorry, that's not an option." Not an Option? What kind of poll asks for an opinion and then tells me my answer is "Not an option?" Jeeze, Louise! Are you "polling" or Brainwashing?

The Gallup folks used to be the Standard for polls. If Gallup said it, you could book it. A few years ago Scott Rasmussen came along. Then I heard about Quinnipiac University's polls. Both have good reputations for accuracy.

Yesterday I learned of the political research center of Suffolk University. Their accuracy has been rated at 96%. Impressive. They've announcement they are pulling their resources away from Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, because, in their words, "...we’ve already painted those red." Meaning, their results, to them, accurately forecast a Romney win. 
If I were in charge of a political campaign I'm not sure I'd make rash decisions based on polls. They are frequently a good tool for decisions, but not the only one.

Disclaimer: This is not intended as an endorsement of any candidate or political party. It's just my observation and comments on items in the current news.

P.S. This gives me an idea for a later post. About numbers and math. Stay tuned.

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