Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Should you Pay Attention to the Polls?



No: if you're asking, then no.

Especially if you were shocked by Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016: no. Pay no attention.

If you don't have enough statistical savvy to interpret them properly, then they will just lead you astray; instill false confidence or false dread. Don't do that to yourself. You don't need to get fancy. You don't need to scry the future. Just vote. 

I follow the polls daily, as I did in 2016. I was not surprised by Trump's victory in 2016, though I was deeply distressed. On the eve of that election, you remember, I wrote: "My heart is convinced that Trump will win this election." I knew precisely what the polls said: they were giving us four chances in seven of winning, which is pretty close to a coin flip. If you didn't get that, then stay the hell away from polls. They'll do you more harm than good.

At this point -- at this point -- the best forecast has six chances in seven of Biden winning. Those are good odds. I like them. But that still means that if you held the elections seven times, and there was a reasonably fair count, Biden would win six times and Trump would win once. (I know, you can't hold the elections seven times. One time in each of seven identical dimensions? Something like that.) That is nothing like certainty. 

Soldier on. Fight for fair elections, wherever you are. Vote as early as you can, and if your state doesn't really know how to vote by mail, vote in person if you can. But most of all, just vote. There is no way to know what happens next.


Gilmore Crosby said...

Don't lower the shields! Lock phasers on vote! Fire!

JudyT said...

I don't look at maybe and perhaps. I do now and then glance at the blue/red maps, and they give me hope, but it's a lot like trying to judge New England weather using a compass and a good guess.
All any of us can do, I suppose, is vote hard and hope.
I've never felt so optimistically hopeless in my life.

Nimble said...

Dropped my ballot off this morning. Onward.