December 13

Why is there so much hype around polls?

Political polls are the ultimate form of fortune telling, and as Americans, we are obsessed with them. While polls rely on statistics and data, we take percentages as a sure thing, and apply the number to the nation on a whole. So, in case you are wondering why there is so much hype surrounding a poll number, this is why.

As we, as humans, are always wondering about the future in our daily lives, there is really no surprise we wouldn’t wonder the same thing for an event as important as an election. Political analysts make a name and a reputation based off of these prediction, and receive the ultimate satisfaction of being able to tell you they told you so. On the same account, political analysts can lose their career if they make the wrong prediction. For example, pollster genius, Karl Rove, lost his Fox News gig after very wrongly calling Ohio for Mitt Romney. Despite getting it right so many times before, and putting President George W. Bush in the White House, no one can forget this night.

We want to get behind the winning team. We want to be able to follow someone from the start to the end, and not be disappointed on Election Day for the wasted energy. It entices you to go out and volunteer, to get yard signs and bumper stickers, and to spark political debates with your peers that you know will eventually prove to be right.

But the truth is, polls are a gamble. Different political organizations and newspapers will target a small amount of people, trust them that they are not giving a wrong answer, and then use the percent to represent the entire population. Furthermore, many people no longer have home phone numbers which are primarily used for polling, or refuse to take part in the poll.

There is also the potential that despite the answer given, the person will change their vote on Election Day.

So while polling tells a lot, it’s is in no way set in stone. While some people seem to have the Midas touch, there is always a margin of error that shows us the future is never definite. Take polls with a grain of salt, because an election is never won until voting night, and even then (think Bush/Gore), events can change.