Iowa State Fair "cast your kernel"

A fairgoer votes for their presidential candidate of choice in WHO-TV's "cast your kernel" poll Aug. 8 at the Iowa State Fair

The Democratic primary process being so packed and crowded has made it very difficult for the public to delineate between candidates. All too often I run into people who have no idea who particular candidates even are and with the field being so full, polling has placed an increased importance on the reporting being done on the primary. Large political media outlets like the New York Times, Politico and FiveThirtyEight all release frequent updates on who’s winning the Democratic primary according to polls. This sort of contextualizing of the race has a huge effect on how its perceived by the general public.

Polls are theoretically representations of the population and allow us to peer into what the public thinks about a given set of candidates without committing the resources necessary to perform a comprehensive census of what every single person thinks. While I am not calling for us to begin making the implementation of censuses the norm, we must see that there are some effects associated with doing representative polls.

Studies show that public opinion polling can have the effect of further stifling the opinions of smaller minorities and can therefore make the voice of that group less represented in the given election than if they had voted purely based on the views individuals hold.

Also, even though these polls are engineered to represent the population as aptly as possible, they could be nearly exactly correct and there would be the candidates who argue that the polls are not the reality. Campaigns like the Sanders and Trump campaigns have a history of denying mainstream polling as mischaracterizing the country’s opinion, though it is notable that whenever these same campaigns are shown in an advantageous light they tout the polls as representative of their popularity.

This ability to cast doubt on polls is emblematic of the lack of trust that Americans have toward polling and what validity they have. Polls are built with margins of error and when there are numbers given to the probability that any given candidate will win an election, these margins of error are taken into account. Unfortunately, however, there is not much understanding of this and the reaction to unlikely election results (according to the polls) is that the polls are wrong. President Trump has literally said, "I believe in polls — only the ones that have us up … Other than that, they're the fake news polls." This, frankly, is propaganda and creates doubt in thorough and rigorous social science work that perhaps should be taken more seriously.

Polls are a scientifically proven way to keep up with the way the voters are perceiving the candidates in a given race, but there are some detriments to them fundamentally. These detriments can be overcome if we recognize them and ensure that they are taken into account.

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Letter to the Editor Submission Link

(1) comment

Steve Gregg

If the polls are so scientifically valid, why did they show Trump losing even up to the day of the election? If the polls render such a bad prediction, why would you trust them? Why would it be unfair to call them fake?

Very often, politicians use push polls with loaded questions to favor their candidates, then publish the fraudulent results to convince the voting public that their unpopular candidate is actually popular. It’s the fallacy of argumentum ad populem, in which ignorant people believe the most popular candidate must be the best one. In psychology, it’s called group think. Such rhetoric is effective to a degree, particularly on gullible college students who are easily manipulated.

The reason why the public finds it hard to tell the Democratic presidential candidates apart is that they are pretty much the same, pitching various forms of socialism, differing only in what lunatic giveaway scheme they prefer: Green New Deal, Medicare for all, slavery reparations, health care for illegal aliens, free college, universal basic income, et al. They can all be summed up as demands to loot Americans so that America can commit economic hara-kiri.

The Democrats have raced left to become the party of the Barking Mad Lefty Loonies, abandoning the center to make a gift of it to Trump. Whoever they nominate, probably Warren, will be, at most, a speed bump to Trump’s re-election.

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