In 1980 the last major polls before election day had Ronald Reagan trailing President Carter by 7 to 9 points. You may not have heard that story or if you did see a story about it, you may have been told that it wasn’t true or is irrelevant. It is true, and we will see if it is relevant in another week, but one thing you know is that there will be plenty of poll dancing between now and election day, and there was a lot of it in 1980. What I mean is that polls are taken to measure opinions, but they are also used to sway opinions. When you see your candidate ahead in the polls it adds a measure of validation to your opinion. You feel like you are a part of something that is going somewhere…the beat is up and the steps are clear. When your candidate is down in the polls the opposite is true. At the end of last week (about the same time before the 1980 election) it was pretty obvious which campaign had the disco beat and which one was robotripping. This week the polls and roles are reversed.
What is the value of polling? Think through that for a while. There are two things you will hear so much about in any political discussion that are often used to sway your attention (and your vote). The first is polling data and the second is “expert opinions”/”studies.” We need to pay more attention to the way both are applied to the electorate to produce a desired result rather than to report actual conditions. An example of the latter is Hillary’s claim in the last debate that “17 agencies have concluded” that the Russians are behind the Wikileaks email leaks. That statement is designed to cut off any argument against the premise that the Russians are involved in scamming us somehow and it is also designed to make anyone who tries to make a counter claim look like they are going against the flow. Against the flow. There you have it. There is something in us that wants to go with the flow. No one likes being the fly in the ointment, the party pooper, the neigh sayer, or especially the looney conspiracy theorist who sounds crazy.
Polls and studies are done by people. People. That means polls and studies are conducted with agendas. Some are purposely done with the agenda in mind and some are done with the agenda safely tucked away in the subconscious, but none of them are done in a vacuum. Well, that may not be the best way to put it. A lot of polls and studies are done by people who live in a ziplocked world of group think and group act. They do not know what they do not know…and that leads to some interesting results. In the next 7 days the polls are going to change day to day and some are going to swing wildly, but the truth is that they are not reliable all the time. When what the experts and pollsters don’t know becomes large enough it sometimes gets so large that it is hiding in plain sight. The Reagan landslide was pretty obvious the day after the election…but it wasn’t missing the week before the election either. The country was in a mood that told anyone paying attention to it that it was fed up. Next week we will see if the poll dancers got the steps wrong. Personally I think I hear something different than they do…I hear the Electric Slide…the electric landslide. We will see and hear soon enough.