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The problems inherent in political polls




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Illustration by Joo Fazenda

Stay out of the US election, warned Bernie Sanders Vladimir Putin, after US intelligence officials informed him that the Russians were meddling in the Democratic presidential primaries on his behalf. They're still shouting for Donald Trump, too, creating fake social media accounts and spreading false information, which apparently doesn't bother the president now more than he did the last time. But it's hard to defend the integrity of the U.S. election against foreign interference when the Americans have come to accept so much domestic interference. Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy his way to the presidency and, while many people have complained about this, it is what is called the oligarchy, not democracy, Sanders has stated that no one had done anything about it, and it was the National Democratic Committee, not the Internet Research Agency. , this allowed Bloomberg to buy a place in the debates.

Before 2015, when Fox News put Trump at the center of its debate and asked him to ask the lion's questions, polls had never been used to determine which candidates from major parties would be allowed to participate in a televised debate , or where they would stay, or how many questions they would get. Reputable polling organizations, including Pew and Gallup, did not participate in this masquerade; Bloomberg Politics pollsters were among those who complied. Four years later, notwithstanding how badly it worked for Republicans, D.N.C. decided to use the same method, a decision that condemned the slow-start campaigns of Michael Bennet and Julin Castro. If the method narrows the field, it does not improve the caliber of the candidates. And almost no one blinked.

Almost all major polling stations misinterpreted the 2016 presidential race. Most did much better to predict the mid-term of 2018. Yet the majority of Americans do not trust the polls. Surveys measure something, but it's often the wrong thing (fame, money). They are like S.A.T. scores. The problem is not really their accuracy; this is the damage they do. When the modern ballot started, in the thirties, George Gallup claimed that he had revived the tradition of city reunification, but most members of Congress regarded it as, as it was written, in contradiction with the representative government. In 1949, political scientist Lindsay Rogers complained that pollsters rejected as irrelevant the type of political society in which we live and which we, as citizens, should strive to strengthen. Democracy requires participation, deliberation, representation and leadership of real things, not their simulation.

To tweet is to talk about voting, it is to vote. Twitter was launched in 2006. Right away, people started using it to run political campaigns. The Barack Obamas 2008 campaign used it to raise funds. The Conservatives used it to undermine the press. Using Twitter to bypass traditional media and reach voters directly is certainly a good thing, said Newt Gingrich, in 2009. Many people thought, and still sincerely believe, that Twitter is good for democracy. Twitter is one of the places where you actually have your own soap box, said one user in 2011. Twitter dubbed the 2012 race The Twitter Election and, two years later, published the Twitter Government and Elections Handbook, which described Twitter as a real – time measurement of public opinion. Just like Gallup had done decades earlier, Twitter announced its platform to politicians like The Town Hall Meeting … In Your Pocket.

All of this has happened even as a growing body of empirical research has shown that the more politically charged the tweet is, the more likely it is to reach a large audience, than the people who get the information Twitter policies are radicalized by experience, and that Twitter, like Facebook is a great medium for propaganda. The tiny world of Twitter seemed to be the world which, in 2017, the Supreme Court held, in Packingham v. North Carolina, that social media was a public sphere, a decision which was based on the conviction of the courts in its omnipresence. Everyone uses Twitter, said judge Elena Kagan. In fact, only about one in five Americans have used it. Most people who have a Twitter account rarely use it, and very few of those who publish articles on politics. Those who do, sometimes display a lot even as much as the President and they are also atypical in other respects. A decade-old study found that the average political tweeter is a white man in his thirties or forties who has moderate to high family income and considers himself a political junkie. The Twitterati have become more diverse since; Black Lives Matter and MeToo appeared on the platform. Still, he remains a very poor proxy for the electorate. In 2018, according to the Pew Research Center, 97% of all tweets published by American adults on national politics were by 10% of tweeters. A disproportionate number of people in the town hall of Twitters are the kind of people who were eligible to vote in 1820, before the first expansion of the electorate in Jackson's time: the wealthy, the educated, and the hyperpartisans . Twitter is not the future of American democracy; it is the past.

A simulation of democracy taking the place of reality took a long time to come. It started, presumably, in the presidential election of 1960, when JohnF. Kennedys' campaign hired a pioneering predictive analytics company, called Simulmatics Corporation, to provide advice on how a Democrat could reclaim the White House, using an invention he called People Machine. Aggregate simulmatics polls (much like the way FiveThirtyEight aggregates polls), divided the electorate into four hundred and eighty types of voters, found an algorithm to model their electoral behavior, and then performed a mock election (quite similar to the one led by Washington Posts new simulator). The firm advised Kennedy to speak frankly about his Catholicism, and after his victory, Simulmatics took the credit, which led to reports that the president-elect had relied on a robot campaign strategist designed secretly nicknamed a machine-people. Did he cheat? Should this kind of thing be illegal? People asked these questions, but after a while, no one blinked.

Some critics say it's dehumanizing, acknowledged a Simulmatics executive. But, he asked, why should politicians operate in the dark? If there is of them People Machines working against each other in a political campaign that would be progress. Everyone recently had a machine for people. You probably have one in your pocket. This is not progress.

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