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Cellphones Communications Stats Politics

Political Polls Become Less Reliable As We Head Into 2016 Presidential Election 292

HughPickens.com writes: Cliff Zukin writes in the NY Times that those paying close attention to the 2016 election should exercise caution as they read the polls — election polling is in near crisis as statisticians say polls are becoming less reliable. According to Zukin, two trends are driving the increasing unreliability of election and other polling in the United States: the growth of cellphones and the decline in people willing to answer surveys. Coupled, they have made high-quality research much more expensive to do, so there is less of it. This has opened the door for less scientifically-based, less well-tested techniques.

To top it off, a perennial election polling problem, how to identify "likely voters," has become even thornier. Today, a majority of people are difficult or impossible to reach on landline phones. One problem is that the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act has been interpreted by the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit the calling of cellphones through automatic dialers, in which calls are passed to live interviewers only after a person picks up the phone. To complete a 1,000-person survey, it's not unusual to have to dial more than 20,000 random numbers, most of which do not go to actual working telephone numbers.

The second unsettling trend is rapidly declining response rates, reaching levels once considered unimaginable. In the late 1970s, pollsters considered an 80 percent response rate acceptable, but by 2014 the response rate has fallen to 8 percent. "Our old paradigm has broken down, and we haven't figured out how to replace it," concludes Zukin. "In short, polls and pollsters are going to be less reliable. We may not even know when we're off base. What this means for 2016 is anybody's guess."
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Political Polls Become Less Reliable As We Head Into 2016 Presidential Election

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  • and yet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sribe ( 304414 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:05AM (#49962029)

    Who wants to be Nate Silver will be able to make sense of the polls?

    Still some interesting points, and yes we may reach a point where polls actually have no predictive value. But I doubt we've gone from "100% accurate if you know how to interpret them" to 0% in 4 years ;-)

    • Who wants to be Nate Silver will be able to make sense of the polls?

      Maybe Nate Silver?

      He has a site fivethirtyeight.com/ [fivethirtyeight.com] that interprets poll results, and other numbers in the news

    • Who wants to be Nate Silver will be able to make sense of the polls?

      Still some interesting points, and yes we may reach a point where polls actually have no predictive value. But I doubt we've gone from "100% accurate if you know how to interpret them" to 0% in 4 years ;-)

      I found the article interesting - though I'm still "digesting" it and have yet to read up supporting material. Perhaps someone would be kind enough to point me at some sources about what the poll results gets used for - and, correct me if I'm wrong in "suspecting" that poll results don't reflect election results (in the USA). TIA.

    • Re:and yet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:30AM (#49962265)

      Nate Silver doesn't poll, he takes other people's polls and combines them.
      Which upsets the real poll takers, Silver gets a lot of attention using other peoples' work.
      If the real poll takers fail, so will the Nate's of the world.

    • by koan ( 80826 )

      What you're saying is that Silver can make sense of uneducated opinions, that's all polls are.

    • Nate Silver did very poorly in the UK election just this spring. His trend was better than most pollsters, but he was still way off. [fivethirtyeight.com]
  • by gmac63 ( 12603 ) <gmac63@gmaELIOTil.com minus poet> on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:08AM (#49962051) Homepage

    What do you expect. Figures don't lie, but liars can figure.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:09AM (#49962055)

    One problem is that the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act has been interpreted by the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit the calling of cellphones through automatic dialers, in which calls are passed to live interviewers only after a person picks up the phone.

    I know some people that the pollers could outsource to that have seemed to have found a very easy workaround to this problem.

    "Hi, this is Rachel from polling services....."

    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:15AM (#49962105)
      Well, there's the fact that most respectable polling outfits tend to try and operate legally, however quaint a notion that may be in this day and age.

      What interests me, though, is the demographic shift this will tend to have on any number of results. Landline use skews older and older each year, nevermind peoples' habits with the phone. I usually don't even answer my mobile unless I recognize the caller - if it's important, they can leave a message and I'll call back.
  • what this means? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:09AM (#49962059)

    ... it means you wait until the votes are counted to declare a winner instead of when the press tells you who the winner is.

    • ... it means you wait until the votes are counted to declare a winner instead of when the press tells you who the winner is.

      But then the "news" companies won't be able to predict the polls properly!!!

      And how will the world go on if this happens?

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:09AM (#49962061)
    Post Citizens United we're going to get the best government that money can buy.
    • We had the same problem before. It just used to be only unions and other heavily democratic orginzations allowed to donate

      • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:34AM (#49962297)
        What utter nonsense. You're saying that wealthy Republicans weren't allowed to contribute before Citizens? Or that organizational contributions in general weren't restricted/limited? In a word, bullshit. What Citizens allows is unlimited, anonymous contributions by corporations under the legal fiction that they (as artificial persons) have MORE freedom of speech than natural persons. If the difference between that and what we had before escapes you, then I suggest you invest in a 7th-grade civics class.
        • They were allowed to contribute but those contributons were limited.

        • Before citizen united we had news organization (corporations) that were allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money pushing a candidate. We still have news organizations pushing for there preferred candidate with no limits or reporting on the amount they spend. Do you even know what citizen united was about? They made a video that was critical of a candidate. Do you really want the government deciding which movies are too political and count as political speech?
        • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @01:45PM (#49963403)

          What Citizens allows is unlimited, anonymous contributions by corporations under the legal fiction that they (as artificial persons) have MORE freedom of speech than natural persons.

          (1) Contrary to popular belief (and bad media reporting), the majority ruling never even mentioned the concept of "corporate personhood." Also, corporations have been recognized as having various rights for at least 200 years in the U.S.

          (2) The default concept of rights, as for example in the first amendment, applies not only to individuals but to collections of people. The first amendment actually explicitly mentions five rights: speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly. THREE of those rights already only refer to groups of people (religion -- which implies a group of believers, petition, and assembly), and "free press" clearly has applied to businesses since the time of the Constitution. "Free speech" is the ONLY right there which was artificially restricted to individuals, even though there is no such qualifier in the Constitution. (And, in fact, it was never restricted to individuals -- no one had ever claimed that corporations didn't have free speech rights before Citizens; there were just restrictions on that speech, as there are on all speech in various contexts.)

          (3) Corporations are legal representatives of groups of people. As already mentioned, the first amendment explicit protects various rights for groups of people. And given that we're talking about money here, it's unclear how corporations have "more freedom of speech than natural persons" since money can either be spent by an individual, or that money can be invested in a corporation which then spends that money. Since "money = speech" in many electoral laws, how exactly do you claim that corporations are "double-dipping" on free speech? The money can only be spent by one entity, so if an individual gives money to a corporation to donate, that individual is ceding control of that money (="speech") and has less money to use for individual speech.

          (4) The ruling overturned restrictions on corporate speech that were inconsistently applied before. Specifically, it mostly overturned a restriction that said certain types of corporations couldn't "speak" (e.g., run ads) within 60 days before an election. Meanwhile, "news organizations" were allowed to speak however they wanted to before elections, including editorializing, endorsing candidates, etc. Most "news organizations" are owned by giant corporations today, so Fox News (for example) got a free pass to say what it wanted to before an election, but the ACLU (as a corporate body, but not a "news" one) would be barred from running a public service announcement that pointed out one of the candidates wanted to overturn the Constitution. Thus, the system was already quite screwed up -- unless you believe in a world where Fox News can donate unlimited propaganda time and money, but non-profit organizations which just want to raise public interest aren't allowed to have free speech before an election.

          (5) A couple technicalities here, but Citizens does NOT allow "unlimited, anonymous contributions" to anything. Corporations were (and ARE) still banned from contributing directly to political campaigns. What Citizens did was allow corporations to, say, run an ad or something on a political issue before an election, which previously was prohibited. It also asserted a general principle that "independent" corporate speech (i.e., speech that is NOT direct donations to a campaign) should not be restricted more than individual speech.

          (6) A subsequent court case (SpeechNOW v. FEC [wikipedia.org]) is perhaps the one where you're thinking about "unlimited, anonymous contributions." Basically, the ruling in this latter case followed the idea set for in Citizens that contributions to INDEPENDENT entities (i.e., not political campaig

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:09AM (#49962063)

    One reason why polling companies can't get usable info is that end users tend to be constantly barraged by robocalls, be it the GE security system, "polls" which actually turn out to be scammy sales pitches, or many other types of scams.

    Because of this, people either use apps like Mr. Number which autoblocks, or just ignore any number not on their contacts list and area code. If someone does answer and gets a "hi, this is not a sales call", the "end" button on the phone gets pressed by instinct, just like one's hand draws back if they touch a hot pan.

    • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:36AM (#49962309)

      This. Maybe a decade ago I answered a few actual polls, and felt taken advantage of. The questions went on and on. Then I got some sales "polls" and quickly decided to never answer that crap again. I've also gotten so many calls where all I get is a few seconds of silence and then *click*. I've gotten to the point where I have to call back some folks I too reflexively hung up on who were legit.

      On the whole I wish I had killed the land-line a while ago.

    • ...where it's not really a poll at all, but a disguised negative campaign ad [wikipedia.org]. At this point, if I don't recognize the number, I don't answer it. Period.
    • by c ( 8461 )

      One reason why polling companies can't get usable info is that end users tend to be constantly barraged by robocalls,

      I suspect that another reason, particularly when you're talking mobile, is that people who answer phones are far less likely to be sitting in a nice, comfortable chair in their living room ready to play 20 questions with whoever calls. If my parents call while I'm out walking the dog or something, I'll chat for a few minutes. If a pollster calls, they're out-of-luck.

      The business model of poll

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:11AM (#49962083) Journal

    ".. the response rate has fallen to 8 percent. "Our old paradigm has broken down, and we haven't figured out how to replace it..."

    Here's a crazy idea: let's have everyone vote, and then see what the results are before we report on it?

    Or even weirder: instead of micromanaging a candidate's positions based on what they think the public wants to hear, have the candidate state what they actually think, and let the public judge them (shock!) on their actual beliefs? Do they even remember what they think themselves still?

    I know, I'm so old-fashioned.

    • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:18AM (#49962125)
      You're forgetting about focus groups, which is where most politician's views/presentations are actually crafted. Polls are used as feedback for "how are we doing with 20 to 30 year-old Latino transvestites who self-identify as Republicans" to identify where (demographically) more advertising money needs to be spent.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        You're forgetting about focus groups, which is where most politician's views/presentations are actually crafted. Polls are used as feedback for "how are we doing with 20 to 30 year-old Latino transvestites who self-identify as Republicans" to identify where (demographically) more advertising money needs to be spent.

        You know, political parties have the campaigning down pat. They don't rely on public polls for their information and policy positions. They have, through decades of research and analysis, figured

    • Or even weirder: instead of micromanaging a candidate's positions based on what they think the public wants to hear, have the candidate state what they actually think, and let the public judge them (shock!) on their actual beliefs?

      Not really workable. I have political positions which, while sound, can't be pressed until a campaign to inform the public has succeeded. Consent of the governed is more important than agreement with the governed. As such, actual campaigns must follow what the public wants, emphasizing those parts of my position, and modifying what the public believes by providing information campaigns.

  • I need to wrap up that FreePBX raspberry Pi project I started so I can take better control of my landline.

  • by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:17AM (#49962113)

    Perhaps ask people go to a place and let their preference be known. Let's call the place a "polling place" and let's call their preference, say, a "vote". We can get rid of the term "poll" and use some new fancy term like "election".

    But, polling really does need to change with people's communication preferences. ID verification was ALWAYS a problem on phones. I think that knocking on doors, trusted e-mail, text messages, and other alternatives exist. Harder to do, but oh well. If you want good data, its ALWAYS really hard to do. Good data is very difficult to come across. All data is wrong, but sometimes it tells you something interesting... (something like that...)

    The talking heads and candidates care who is "leading in the polls". I don't. I choose my candidate based on what is best for ME and then I ALWAYS vote. I ALWAYS lie to pollsters. Or do I?

  • Misleading Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:17AM (#49962123)

    The summary tries to blame this on the FCC for "interpreting" the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to apply to survey calls to cell phones. The law itself (47 USC 227), not some rogue FCC interpretation, says no auto-dialed or prerecorded calls to cell phones without express consent. Period. No exceptions for "surveys." No exceptions for "get out the vote" political calls either.

    • There's a machine in another state that dials numbers until someone answers then switches the call to me. It's not illegal. Landline or cellphone, it makes no difference. And landline calls are likely to lead to older people.
  • Hackability (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vortex2.71 ( 802986 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:18AM (#49962129)

    Considering that the major change in campaigning strategy over the last 15 years has centered around using statistical techniques to hack an election, this probably is not a bad thing at all. It means that defining a wedge issue and engineering the entire political discourse toward that wedge might have some uncertainty. Maybe the candidates can talk about things that they actually believe.

  • first you must discredit the polls.
    • It's a lot easier to discredit the polls when most of them are run by partisan hacks who want to shape public opinion with the appearance of objectivity and independence, just like the news media.
  • I have to wonder how much of this has to do with 'push polling'. I have a zero tolerance for this practice and I will shut down a survey call in a heartbeat if it appears to be headed in that direction. I have probably ended some legitimate calls because of this.

    Add to that the following:

    • There is very little that goes on in politics today that isn't marketing of some sort.
    • Almost no-one in or running for public office appears to be truly interested in representing the common citizen.

    I certainly don't have to wonder why people are so skeptical of surveys.

  • by drjoe1e6 ( 461358 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:21AM (#49962167)

    No reliable polling data? The horrors!

    Instead of focusing on the horse race (who's ahead? who's falling behind?), do you think the media will discuss what candidates actually say and do, maybe even compare and contrast their stump speeches with their actual record and/or accomplishments?

    That would truly be "we inform, you decide."

  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:26AM (#49962221) Journal
    The opinion polling industry here in the UK got got last month's General Election badly wrong. Not only did almost all of the pre-election polls (conducted by a wide range of companies, some of whom use telephone surveys while others use an online approach) get the vote-distribution wrong, over-estimating Labour support and under-estimating Conservative support, but they also misread the mapping of those vote-shares into Parliamentary seats (which is, admittedly, not always simple in the UK's first-past-the-post electoral system).

    Only the exit-poll conducted on the day of the election itself got relatively close to the actual result (and even that under-estimated the scale of the eventual Conservative victory).

    There's a major industry post-mortem in progress at the moment, which is scrutinising various aspects of previous methodological orthodoxy. UKpollingreport has a fairly good write-up of the state of play here [ukpollingreport.co.uk].

    There's been a fair degree of political acrimony about the inaccuracy of the pre-election polling. In particular, there have been questions raised about whether inaccurate polling caused the parties or the voters to change their behaviours in a way that accurate polling (or no polling) wouldn't have. There are also some calls for the UK to follow the example of some continental European countries and ban the publication of opinion polls in the 2-3 week period before an election.

    One other point worth noting is that there was one particular data-analytics organisation (sorry, can't find the link right now) which looked at the raw data from the opinion polls and made a call a few days before the election which predicted the outcome fairly accurately.

    Nate Silver called it badly wrong, in this instance.
    • It was actually the phenomenon of 'Shy Tories(1)'; people who told pollsters they were definitely voting Labour, but in the booth, they didn't. As to what they were thinking, maybe a better shot at personal gain under the Tories, and the rest of the country can sod right off? Or a protest vote against Milliband personally for being an abject failure at retail politics (along with that adenoidal voice)? Hell, maybe it was just the vague thrill of screwing up the predictions, knowing your own vote really wo
  • Maybe now we'll see an election where we don't actually know who has won until the voting is complete.

    All of this polling has created a self-fulfilling prophecy where sketchy polls predict a winner, undecided people vote for that winner to make their vote "count," and others for or against the the projected winner don't bother to vote. Meanwhile, political candidates don't really bother to take a stand on issues unless they have verified via polling that XX% of their constituents support their position.

    Let

    • "Dewey Defeats Truman"

      We are just on the other side of that equation now. Landlines have become rare enough again that they skew results.

  • How I vote is none of the pollster's business. And it's not like the politicians would even listen to my opinion anyway. Vote all incumbents out, always!
  • Politicians are becoming less and less reliable heading into the 2016 election, too. We should do a study.

  • What does he do that's different from what everyone else does?

    • He analyzes polls based on in-house bias, then he weights them when he does his meta-analysis.

      Nate Silver isn't a pollster. He aggregates polls and comes up with probable outcomes based on his model.

      I remember media reports about how polling was becoming less reliable back in 2008 and 2012. But as long as they are unreliable in a reliable way, people like Nate Silver seem to be able to deal.

  • Also, I'm not going to vote and I don't believe in democracy any more. :)

  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @11:52AM (#49962449)
    Let's say polls were way off resulting in newspapers with headline errors. But the printed newspaper has gone wayside along with all those "hard to reach" people on landlines. However there is the internet. I did a screen grab of news website a week or two after the 2012 election that has a Romney infotainment article on the side, "we're confident we will win this election."
  • high-quality research much more expensive to do, so there is less of it

    Good. Fewer polls means fewer people trying to intrude on my time. I don't know why pollsters think they have a right to rudely cold-call people and take up their time - without giving anything back. But it does seem that more and more people are becoming resistant to their interruptions.

    If fewer polls means less punditry and less time talking about inconsequential "what-ifs" on TV in the seemingly years long run up to elections, then that can only be a good thing for viewers and all us ordinary people. S

    • I don't know why pollsters think they have a right to rudely cold-call people and take up their time - without giving anything back.

      Technically they're giving back information that's going to be in the news tomorrow or next week.

      Indeed. I recently filled out a survey, but they're giving away a $500 gift card to those who respond. Personally, I'd have preferred $5. I'm not much of a gambler1

      Offer about $15/hour for your survey (So a 20 minute survey would be $5), and response rates should rise.

  • Someone's desire to poll me doesn't translate into my requirement to be accessible or responsive.
    • or truthful
      • I lived in a very conservative state and in terms of local or regional elections it could be guaranteed who would win. In those cases I voted communist just to see if my votes were tallied in the next day's canvassing results in the local news. "Yup we got commies out there!"

  • If the politicians didn't actually know how people would vote, maybe they would focus on having an ideology, principles, articulating clear policies and talking with constituents.
  • Now polling comes down to who has the most followers on Twitter and who's Facebook page gets the most "likes".

  • . Today, a majority of people are difficult or impossible to reach on landline phones. One problem is that the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act has been interpreted by the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit the calling of cellphones through automatic dialers, in which calls are passed to live interviewers only after a person picks up the phone. To complete a 1,000-person survey, it's not unusual to have to dial more than 20,000 random numbers, most of which do not go to actual working telephone numbers.

    Landline phones? Come on this isn't the 1960s. I would have expected the same to include "party line" in the same sentence.

    The 1991 CPA doesn't stop every fucking political action committee from spamming your with calls to vote for some idiot; a nuisance that was allowed explicitly by the act.

    Just conduct your survey on twitter or facebook and pay the devil his due.

  • Let's start out with how they choose what exchanges to poll. Until I moved into a specific neighborhood in a city I used to live in, I'd *NEVER* been called, which told me that "likely voters" mean "don't call any exchange where it's heavily black or 'ethnic'".

    Second, I have *real* trouble with the idea that 1k or 2k people will give an accurate view of how half a million folks are going to vote; rather, that kills excellent candidates who don't have big money backers from getting to be voted on.

    Finally, th

  • Perhaps if politicians actually waited until 2016 to start campaigning for 2016, we wouldn't already be sick and tired of the election and might be willing to answer questions about it. Instead, if we think of President Obama's term as a year they've started showering us with ads for Christmas and it's only late July or early August. Frankly I feel like awarding each of the candidates a load of coal or perhaps reindeer dung in their stockings.

  • When they started to be used instead as a way to push a political agenda. ie. An agenda wearing a poll's clothing. This is true often enough that I no longer participate in any polls.

  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @01:12PM (#49963117) Homepage Journal

    Political polls are exempt from do-not-call lists and every Sept-early November my phone rings several times each evening. I can ask to not be called and I will continue to get called over and over.

    This year I've decided if I can't make phone polls stop calling I will actively work against them by lying my ass off. I'll tell them I'm voting for Darth Vader because he's honest about where he stands on social issues and foreign policy. The most important issue in this election season is freeing minds from the Matrix.

    It also never hurts to answer every question with "Hodor"

  • Most of the political poll calls I get, and I get them regularly, are focused on the 2016 Presidential election.

    The primaries are still 7-10 months away. I am uninterested. I hang up.

    Call me in November, when campaigning should be heating up. It's MUCH too early.

    And yes, I know this is driven by the candidates, money, and the media. Those points don't make me more eager to participate so early.

  • I've been reading this type of story for years, and then the election unfolds just as the polls predicted.

    My guess is that the sellers of newspapers etc. are just trying to convince people that this is an exciting topic, so they publish these anti-poll theories and a few suggested explanations that they reckon are credible.

  • It's ironic that we share more of ourselves than ever, pollsters should be having a hard time guessing what we think. From the millions of tweets and Facebook updates and Google searches we collectively make each day, plus modern text parsing and data mining techniques, we should be able to approximate something like the political pulse of the population. I have a feeling that we reveal a lot more with our online behavior than what we ever reveal to pollsters, it's just a matter of someone scooping up and p
  • Let's not forget people are SICK AND TIRED of sales and poll-calls.

    Some of us purpposefully LIE to you people and waste your time when we have the time to do so.

    Make the calls a waste of the callers' time and money and that will help get the point across.

  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @02:21PM (#49963735)
    the lower the response rate the more you can skew the results with bogus answers. Rather than hang up embrace the opportunity to shape the future positions of our government by creatively staking out you position. Don't think of it as a nuisance to be avoid but rather a chance to screw with politicians.
  • What do they (pollsters) expect?

    I got a call last Saturday morning from an "unknown caller" at 8:30am (which woke me up). I ignored it. Again at 9:30, again at 10:30. Finally I was near enough the phone (actually, Google Voice on an iPad Mini) to pick up. I asked who it was and got a personal name, then I asked who they were calling from and then they admitted it was "ANZ Research" or something that sounds like that. They said they were calling to get opinions on various political topics.

    There's no way in hell I'm going to give survey answers to someone who's dumb enough to call before noon on the weekend. Google Voice lets me block numbers, which I suspect is why they disabled Caller ID, so they could sneak through. I refused to even confirm my name, and told them to take my number off their list and never call again.

    I figured it was probably a push poll anyway.
  • by cfalcon ( 779563 ) on Monday June 22, 2015 @08:43PM (#49966313)

    This decline in polls is VERY welcome. In fact, it's about the only way democracy will have a chance going forward.

    The old style poll was democratic in nature: Do you believe in god? What car do you like? Why do you buy that brand of TV?

    This was used without excess interpretation, and made available. Pollsters were sure to get a decent response rate, they were sure to get data that was statistically relevant, etc.

    This gave polls a magic power: people believed they were true.

    Where power goes, corruption follows.

    Modern polls:

    1)- Hardly ever list their rate of response.
    This little trick allows the pollster to get what he wants his poll to say. It also can make for wildly sensational polls in general.

    2)- Often is a form of advertisement or political mindfuck.
    Ex: Are you Christian? Who will you be voting for in the next election?
    Asking the questions in this order makes you more likely to vote for a candidate you perceive as more in line with the FIRST question. So if the first question is about God, you will be (statistically) more likely to actually vote, and more likely to vote for a Republican. No, no, you say, Reasons. First, you are quite possibly incorrect. Second, even if you are correct in saying that this can't possibly effect YOU, just pretend that it DOES effect everyone else, including those you know and love. They wouldn't do it if it did not literally make votes out of nothing.

    3)- Way too meta, fuck that noise.
    Current polls are often done with a bunch of other questions whose actual goals are to assess the level of corporate threat from different demographics and locations. You could think you are answering questions about kitchen cleaning products, but in reality many of the questions are just there as smoke screen (and no one cares about the thought or time you spend on them), and the "real" questions are to determine the level of political savy of a certain area, the likelihood of a future lawsuit, etc.

    4)- Clearly not a civil service.
    Polls used to be perceived something like a civil service- the companies, who have a responsibility to make the world a better place (this was not so long ago a thing- before the court decision saying that corporations had to act to maximize profits for shareholders), would get information on how to trade off reliability, quality, and cost, to make your life better. The politicians, always interested in Democracy, would figure out how to better represent people. The scientists, always interested in metrics, would figure out what you wanted and research in that direction. I don't know how true this actually was, but that was the PERCEPTION. Even if you don't keep up with all the psych tricks that any profitable or powerfocussed entity is employing, everyone sort of knows that no one is taking their opinions and making a better world for everyone- they are figuring out where you aren't looking so they can slash the pound of flesh with less of a fight.
    This used to be a census. Now, it's intel.

    Pollsters can fuck right off. With some exceptions- actual science still needs polls, and that's sad for them, but they are a rounding error in the giant race to "solve the democracy problem" that companies face (they don't like you voting elsewhere with your dollars) and that politicians face (they don't like that elections are not safe and determined in their favor).

    It is rational to avoid polls, unless you are in possession of expert knowledge of the poll taker's integrity- never the case.

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