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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Polling Excuses

Nate Silver at 538 is the ultimate supporter of public opinion polling.  He reports polls, analyzes polls, adjusts polls and pretty much thinks polls are the answer to all questions.  I read his latest article today in which he decides that President Trump is the explanation for why the nationalist parties of the right have been doing more poorly in European elections since the US election last November.  It's a rather amusing bit of fluff.  Here's what we actually know: 

1.  In a whole series of countries across Europe, the nationalist parties have polled below the level predicted by the pollsters.  These include, among others,  elections in Austria, France, the Netherlands and the UK.  Silver also says that even when there is no right wing nationalist party, whatever party has a better relationship with President Trump has done worse than expected.

2.  There's no way to know why the pollsters across Europe have gotten their numbers so wrong.  We just know that the polls were frequently off.

It's funny that Silver would never think to blame the failure of the polls on the people taking the polls.  No, somehow the results gotten by the pollsters were wrong because of Trump.  It's a joke.  If voters were moving to one party or another because of Trump, the pollsters should have picked that move up.  Surely Silver is not contending that European voters lied to the pollsters.  If he is, then there's no way for the polls to have a predictable relationship with reality.  On the other hand, if the voters did not lie to the pollsters, then Silver's explanation is pure nonsense.  The pollsters should have detected the move to a particular party.

The real truth is that in Europe, as was the case in the USA, the public opinion polls have proven to be extremely unreliable.

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