The problem with polls

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Fox News host Eric Bolling has been decried, even by a Fox News co-host, for saying polls don’t matter. This is in response to a discussion on the shakeup of Donald Trump’s campaign staff and if this movement would assist Trump in national public opinion polls. Polls which consistently show Trump to be down by huge numbers. While Bolling’s argument that crowds matter more than polls (and Trump has HUGE crowds) is asinine, his criticism is not necessarily off base.

As demonstrated by the recent Brexit vote polls don’t really show what is going to happen. There are many methodoligical sources of potential error in polling, especially in electoral polling. Sources of error which have gotten increasingly complicated and germane over time. Demonstrated by the fact that public opinion polls are become increasingly inaccurate. The problem is not solely methodological either, as individual opinions are incoherent and inconsistent. Furthermore, the individual opinions supposedly measured through these polls are easily manipulable.

There are numerous problems with public opinion polling, especially on a national scale. It is difficult to ascertain if the results are accurate. If nothing else there is always a margin of error. Polls do not tell the full story, but that does not mean they do not matter. Expectations must simply be managed as to what these polls are actually telling us.


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