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21.10.14 2229
The W - Current Events & Politics - Three points to ponder
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Guru Zim
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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.83
I am arguing with people here at work about why the polls do not matter at this point in time, and they do not agree with me. I've given up here, and I now take it to the board.

Here are my contentions:

1) The American people are, by and large, stupid.
2) The American people are, by and large, uninformed.
3) The American people are, by and large, last minute shoppers.

Given these three points, which I believe can be backed up, I don't understand how you can ever put any stock in polls this far before the election. Surely only a very small group of people know:

* The history of the Republican candidate
* The history of all of the Democratic candidates
* The current state of the economy
* The economic future of the country
* The plans of the Republican candidate
* The plans of the Democratic candidates
* The impact of these plans on the economy

Yet, given the above, all people polled in the Who would you vote for, X vs Y? question are given equal validity and people make a big deal about 51-46 leads.

How can that lead mean anything? Surely most people are simply talking out of their ass at this time.

In short, I hate polls. They just tell me that a lot of stupid people fired off about stuff that they didn't understand.

I don't know who I'm voting for yet, because I don't know (as much as I can about) all of the above information - and I won't until the month before the election. I simply don't have time to figure it all out now. God forbid someone ask me who I'm voting for - I'll say Bush but I'm not sure that I mean it yet.



Willful ignorance of science is not commendable. Refusing to learn the difference between a credible source and a shill is criminally stupid.
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Since: 2.1.02
From: Plain Dealing, LA

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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.47
Interesting contentions Guru. I'd categorically agree with all three propositions but I think that there are fairly large and obvious exceptions to all three contentions. Having said that, I think that you are exactly correct that polls right now mean absolutely nothing. If anything, polls right now mean less than nothing because they are trying to use only "likely voters" and that's got to be near impossible to accurately select at this point in the race. Additionally, who knows what is going to happen between now and the election and how it may affect the electorate. Bruce Feiler argues http://slate.msn.com/?id=1004677 that the electorate is capable of processing information faster than ever before and so makes their decisions even later than ever.

Anyhow, I partially disagree with your propositions but wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion.

Tim



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Since: 7.4.02
From: The Inner City, Now Living In The Country

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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.36
Guru, while I'm sympathetic to your position that polls this far away from an election are vitually meaningless, I think the argument that you present is somewhat flawed. For example, your number one contention is that "the American people are, by and large, stupid." Well, do you expect the intelligence of the American people to substantially increase in the coming ten months? If not, then isn't this point meaningless to the argument? That is to say, if the American people are just as stupid today as they will be on Election Day, then shouldn't that validate (rather than invalidate) today's poll numbers?

Likewise, your second contention, that "The American people are, by and large, uninformed", which you underline with several specifics, such as the candidates' histories, the state of the economy, etc., meets with a similar question: Do you expect this group of people to become much more informed than they are now when November comes around (presuming, of course, that by informed we are referring to being in possession of actual facts, rather than simply full of the slogans and half-truths that are typically heard during an election campaign)? Again, a negative answer means we again have a meaningless point.

Finally, your third contention, that "the American people are, by and large, last minute shoppers" leads us to perhaps the greatest irony. While I can't confidently state if those who choose their candidate at the last minute are in the minority or the majority, I can state the greatest influence on the selection made by these "last minute shoppers" is: The latest polls! This group of voters is most likely to vote for the candidate that they think will win over any other criteria, thus making polls self-fulfilling prophesies. After all, when you ask an American why they won't be voting for a third-party or long-shot candidate, the reason almost always given is "Because I don't think he can win."

Again, Guru, I share your point of view that polls this far before an election tend to have little value. However, the reason behind my belief isn't because I expect the electorate to experience a great change in their collective IQ over the coming months. Rather, my reason for placing little faith in polls at this time is because the more time between the poll and the election, the greater the possibility that a significant event will occur to cause the voters to change their slection. The shorter the period of time between the poll and the election, the less likely it is that a vote-altering event will occur, thus making such polls more reliable.




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Since: 28.4.02
From: Pittsburgh, PA

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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.55
In addition - national polls are ultimately meaningless due to the convoluted and outdated electoral system anyway.



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Since: 6.1.02
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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.22
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    Surely only a very small group of people know:

    * The economic future of the country



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Since: 9.1.02
From: Wichita, Ks

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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.67
I wouldn't necessarily say the American people are "stupid" as much as willfully ignorant and lazy. Most people don't want to be bothered with knowing anything that doesn't affect them in a very direct, obvious way, and even if it does they'll rarely do much about it unless it gets an immediate result for as little effort as possible. While we're capable of great things, it takes something *very* big to actually get us to stop focusing on ourselves and do something.

Don't get me wrong, there're a lot of profoundly stupid people out there... but I'd say there're a hell of a lot more who just can't be bothered to care.

Whether or not our society encourages this, and the reasons that the people who guide our society would want to encourage that sort of mindset, is whole other closetful of tinfoil hats. :)



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Since: 9.12.01
From: Bay City, OR

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#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.83
    Originally posted by Downtown Bookie
    Guru, while I'm sympathetic to your position that polls this far away from an election are vitually meaningless, I think the argument that you present is somewhat flawed. For example, your number one contention is that "the American people are, by and large, stupid." Well, do you expect the intelligence of the American people to substantially increase in the coming ten months? If not, then isn't this point meaningless to the argument? That is to say, if the American people are just as stupid today as they will be on Election Day, then shouldn't that validate (rather than invalidate) today's poll numbers?


Yes, but - the less complex the problem is, the more likely you can solve it. Right now the problem is outside of the grasp of most people, in my opinion.

This is also why I am glad that we don't have 100% turnouts for elections. I can always hope that it is the uninformed who are not showing up.

    Originally posted by Downtown Bookie
    Likewise, your second contention, that "The American people are, by and large, uninformed", which you underline with several specifics, such as the candidates' histories, the state of the economy, etc., meets with a similar question: Do you expect this group of people to become much more informed than they are now when November comes around (presuming, of course, that by informed we are referring to being in possession of actual facts, rather than simply full of the slogans and half-truths that are typically heard during an election campaign)? Again, a negative answer means we again have a meaningless point.


I don't think that it is possible that the people being polled know, at this time, everything that they would need to know about the whole lot of candidates. I do feel that the odds of them learning the important facts increase as the number of candidates decreases. By the time it is down to one R and one D, most people should have enough time and inclination to learn the salient facts about both candidates. It is my hope that closer to election time a more informed populace could determine between the lesser of two evils. I don't expect that they could truly handle more than 4 choices, though. I believe this is really what clinched the CA race for the Governator - people were overwhelmed and couldn't truly review all the candidates, so they had to narrow it down and pick from a smaller group of "legit" candidates.

    Originally posted by Downtown Bookie
    Finally, your third contention, that "the American people are, by and large, last minute shoppers" leads us to perhaps the greatest irony. While I can't confidently state if those who choose their candidate at the last minute are in the minority or the majority, I can state the greatest influence on the selection made by these "last minute shoppers" is: The latest polls! This group of voters is most likely to vote for the candidate that they think will win over any other criteria, thus making polls self-fulfilling prophesies. After all, when you ask an American why they won't be voting for a third-party or long-shot candidate, the reason almost always given is "Because I don't think he can win."


This is entirely the problem. If the polls can't be considered accurate, then they are simply spin at best and potentially destructive at worst.

Is there any sort of oversight to maintain that these polls are not outright lies? I can remember Bustamante polls that had him leading in the CA Gov race - which I find incredible. Is it possible that those polls were fabrications trying to spin the race by creating a mindset of victory? If so - shouldn't that be illegal? I'm not sure I can see how that should be legal - it seems like an abuse of power to me.

Judging by Christmas shopping and the inevitable April 15 post-office shot at midnight, I'd guess a large portion of those polled today should really be saying Undecided at this point in time.

The problem with random samplings is that you don't really get to see how those people voted later on. I wonder if anyone has done large sample, long term tracking to see how the trend goes. I know every year ABC or one of the networks trots out their 20 average Joes - but I'd kind of like a larger sample than that. I'd prefer to see it reported anonymously so people wouldn't have to posture.

Ack. I just hate polls at this time of year, and the arguments that surround them.




Willful ignorance of science is not commendable. Refusing to learn the difference between a credible source and a shill is criminally stupid.
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Since: 11.7.02
From: MD

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#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.29
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    This is also why I am glad that we don't have 100% turnouts for elections. I can always hope that it is the uninformed who are not showing up.
Trust me, the uninformed show up. The fact of the matter is that parties and candidates spend so much money in last minute advertising and get out the vote efforts that the deciding factor really doesn't gel for most folks until late. That's why campaigns call voters to remind them to vote and station people outside polling stations handing out literature for the purpose of putting the name in their heads.

If people had already made informed decisions, none of this would be necessary.

    Originally posted by OlFuzzyBastard
    In addition - national polls are ultimately meaningless due to the convoluted and outdated electoral system anyway.
That's the bitterness talking :)



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Since: 28.1.02
From: Louisville, KY

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#9 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.72
    Originally posted by Guru Zim
    Here are my contentions:

    1) The American people are, by and large, stupid.




A contention expressed by this columnist
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/ opinion/155107_firstperson05.html

And it would be my contention that liberals always think they're smarter and know what is better for "the little people." That's why they don't trust the "little people" to decide things for themselves and try to have the courts rule on things (which is why the liberals blocked court appointments by a more conservative appointer for 2 years). Because they know if we voted on stuff like, say, abortion and gay marriages, there would be no contests.

The rest of your deal, to a great extent, I agree with. Personally, I have never been part of a political poll. But I think most people vote (and poll) because their daddy did or momma did - because most people don't see a whole lot of difference between one candidate and another.

Because there isn't that much. But what difference there is, is enough for me to decide.



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StaggerLee
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Since: 3.10.02
From: Right side of the tracks

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#10 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.25
I heard the guy who wrote that collumn last night on the Laura Ingraham show, and, like most liberals, he was very condesending to the average person. He kept stating that the government was "dumbing down" the way it talks to the people of the country. Well, I dont know exact figures, but I would assume that the majority of the US population do not have a college education, so, is "dumbing down" the way they put information out, really a bad thing?

Either way, when I worked in high school, one of my jobs was to take public opinion polls for several publications. Most of them, dont specifically ask "Who will you vote for" but rather, have a long series of questions about how likely you would be to vote for a person compared to another, if they were nominated, or if you would vote for them, regardless of who they were running against.

Another thing that always amused me was the way they would say there are swings in the polls, when they arent asking the same people the same questions, they are always asking a new group, and most places, like the one I worked for, have randomly dialing phone systems, so that if an affluent area code and first three number prefix was being used, it was going to reflect how wealthier people were thinking on issues, but, if the oposite were true, it would refer how middle or lower class people were feeling about issues. Supprisingly, that is where you get most of the "dont know" or "not sure" answers.
DrOp
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Since: 2.1.02

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#11 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.23
Guru--You make some good points.

I tend to agree as most Americans are largely media-fed and thus won't take the time to read and research anything, trusting instead the re-read reports of their local news anchors that are written by others.

If all you do is listen to one side of the spin, you'll never be informed. Everyone tries to paint him/herself/party/people in the best light.



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Since: 2.1.02
From: Stafford, VA

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#12 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.55
Okay, as a pollster, I have this to offer;

Less than half of the country votes.

We poll nonvoters to get their opinions as well.

As for the Bustamante sway in the polls, there is a chance that the data was catered to make him look like he was in the lead. Do you happen to know the criteria of who said he was in the lead? There is a chance that only Democrats were polled, or perhaps males over 50 were removed from the sample, etc. Removing one demographic can have that kind of effect.





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Since: 1.8.02
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#13 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.24
If I recall correctly, the results in that poll that favored Bustamante were skewed by doubling the number of black and asian voters in the sampling.

In fact, I can't remember a really accurate poll during the entire Recall campaign. The vast majority of the polls I saw had Davis out, yeah (but it was always close) and Bustamante taking over.



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Since: 8.10.03
From: flyover country

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#14 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.59
I can by in large agree with points one and two Guru but not three. The majority of the time people vote party in major elections (not always). It is probably safe to assume 40% will vote Dem., 40% Rep. and 20% will decide. At least that is what I was always taught. You don't go for you core but for those 20% who don't know.

With points one and two you made, that means a few stupid, uninformed people decide for us.

I wish I could remember the SciFi short story but it was about the future when through computers, one person was selected in this country to vote for the president because the computer was able to determine the one person who would chose as the country would.



Perception is reality
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Aznar wasn't running, but his hand-picked successor was. Works out to about the same thing. http://edition.cnn.com/ 2003/WORLD/europe/09/ 02/spain.successor/ MM
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