Posted on | March 13, 2012 | 13 Comments
Nate Silver of the New York Times shows a surprising humility in explaining the limitations of polling, particularly with the situation we’re facing in Alabama and Mississippi: We don’t have what you might call “data depth.” Unlike the early states (e.g., Iowa or South Carolina), we don’t have a long string of polls, several every week by different agencies, to develop a clear trendline. We also had enough polls in Michigan and Ohio and various other Super Tuesday states so that the trendline was pretty clear there, too. In Mississippi and Alabama, however — as I’ve previously pointed out — there’s not enough data to say anything beyond “too close to call.”
Also, something else I’ve pointed out before, polls are a lagging indicator. It usually takes several days after a shift of opinion for it to start showing up in polls, which is why the Santorum surge in Iowa caught everybody — well, nearly everybody — by surprise. If Santorum’s win in Kansas gave him a late boost, we won’t know it until they count the votes tonight. Meanwhile, remember that Elizabeth Santorum is in Hawaii campaigning for her father. A news report from Honolulu:
When it comes to Presidential politics, Santorum’s daughter, Elizabeth, thinks Father knows best. “I hear from a lot of people, you know, this is Obama’s home state. What are you doing here?” says the 20 year old daughter. “Hawaii’s important to us, and every state along the way brings something to our country.”
Here’s the video:
It will be the wee hours in the morning before we know how the 17 delegates at stake in the Hawaii caucuses will be apportioned. The important thing is, when the TV talking heads try to spin any unexpected results as a “surprise” or an “upset,” ask yourself this question: Why was the result so unexpected? Why are these supposed experts on TV always trying to tell us that the actual vote numbers are some kind of shocking surprise, just because they don’t match the numbers in a poll taken last week? Welcome to the Information Age, where you can read the same polls that they’re reading and make up your own mind, without experts telling you what to think.