Elections: Why Polls Are Often Wrong: What a Princeton Professor Says

By | May 15, 2023

Although most of the opinion polls in Turkey showed Kemal Kilicdaroglu leading, those showing the complete opposite picture were finally confirmed, namely Erdogan winning, at least in the first battle. But how is this inconsistency explained?

Taiwanese-American neuroscientist at Princeton University, Prof. samwang, it has shown that the polls are not only falling in countries like Turkey, but also in the superpower itself, the United States.

HE sam wang came to public attention a few years ago when he was forced to eat an insect while a guest on CNN. He had made a bet that he would do it if then-candidate Donald Trump won more than 240 electoral votes in the 2016 election. Finally, he fell and ate a bug!

Several years after that honest act of admitting his mistake, the academic explained to Scientific American that “it is better not to pull the hair out of a survey to make sense of it.

“If in an electoral battle the difference is 3-4 points, we should say that it is an unequal battle and not force the data to say something that they cannot.”

what happened to trump

Especially for the 2020 US midterm elections, Mr. Sam Wang was asked if pollsters may not have made enough phone calls to Trump supporters; Since theMost polls showed Biden ahead.

Sam Wang summoned him American data scientist and political polling analyst David Shore, who noted the possibility that the people who responded to the polls are not a representative sample.

Respondents “are curious enough in the sense that they are willing to pick up the phone and stay on the phone with a pollster.”

David Shore has shown that people are more likely to pick up the phone if they are Democrats, to pick up the phone during a pandemic, and to pick up the phone if they have a high social trust score.

“It’s exciting. The point is that respondents score higher on social trust than the general population, and because of this, they are not a representative sample of the population. This can skew the results,” says o Wang.

According to him, this is also related to the idea that US states with more conspiracy theorists (QAnon) showed more inaccurate polls. “These people’s belief systems definitely correlate with lower social confidence,” so “these may be people who just won’t answer the phone.”

“If you believe in a monstrous sexual abuse conspiracy involving one of the largest political parties in the United States, then you may be paranoid. The possibility that paranoid people are also reluctant to respond to surveys cannot be ruled out.”

They fought with the immigrants

Miami-Dade County, Florida, which has a large Hispanic population, gave Trump a big boost.

When asked how polls could have missed members of that Trump-supporting demographic, the professor said pollsters know that Hispanic voters are a hard-to-reach demographic.

“In addition, Hispanics are not a monolithic population. If you look at some of the exit polls, it seems that Hispanics were more favorable to Trump than to Clinton four years ago,” argued the professor while admitting that “it is certainly possible that Hispanic support has escaped the pollsters. “.

The role of the pandemic

For Sam Wang, however, Polling is extremely important because it is a way that we can measure public sentiment more rigorously than any other method. Surveys play a fundamental role in our society.

However, he cautions that “one thing we shouldn’t do is turn poll data into probabilities. This hides the fact that the polls may be separated by a few points. And it is better to leave the data reported to the opinion units. [ως ποσοστό που ευνοεί έναν υποψήφιο] instead of trying to turn them into possibility’.

“It’s better not to try too hard for a survey to make too much sense. If the opponents in an election campaign seem to have three or four points, we should simply say that it is a close race and not force the data to say something that they cannot say. I think pollsters will take note of this inaccuracy and try to do better. But to some extent, we should stop expecting too much from polling data”, even if “3-4 points may be optimistic”.

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