I try to steer clear of politics in these posts, but I couldn't help myself on this one. The Economist had a big story about the cost of conducting polls. Here are the numbers according to the article.
Most people won't answer their phone. When it rings, they don't answer it. If it rings, they look to see who it is and if they don't recognize the person, they don't answer it. A few people do answer the phone, but when they hear it's a poll, promptly hang up.
The bottom line is this: only 6 percent of people called will actually answer the phone and stay on the line to answer pollsters' questions. The point of the article was about the economics of trying to capture opinions when nobody answers the phone and fewer still will participate. What used to cost a couple thousand dollars now costs $40,000 for even the most rudimentary poll due to the difficulty of getting folks to participate.
To get 60 people, you have to call 1,000. To get 1,000, you have to call about 17,000 people. This has fundamentally changed the economics behind polling. That's just one part.
The part the article did not address but seemed to me to be the elephant in the room is: who can trust a poll? With this tiny percentage of participation, what's the slice of people, or the demographic, among people who participate? I know whenever we get a poll call at our house, we just hang up.
Who answers a poll? People with nothing better to do? People who aren't working for a living? Lonely folks? Bored folks? I don't know, but if only 6 percent of people who are solicited will participate, that seems like a pretty statistically insignificant slice of the population. The characteristics of the people who respond would certainly not be representative of the random population. Poll participants are now such a specialized slice of the citizenry polls can no longer be representative.
So why conduct one? Why trust one? Indeed, why trust a news organization that uses one? Remember when Trump got elected? All the polls--I mean all the polls--had Hillary up by 10 percent or better. It was supposed to be a landslide. I could not have been more shocked when I woke up the next morning and heard the news. It certainly made pollsters look silly.
I've now added another benchmark of untrustworthiness to my previous one, which was anyone who uses the term DEMOCRACY to describe the United States. We are a REPUBLIC, not a democracy. And the closer we come to democracy, the worse our country gets. If I were elected to a public position, I would do all I could to limit eligible voters to people who actually have a stake in the success of our republic. America's founders called democracy mob rule, and for good reason. Indeed, that's exactly where we're headed, and it's not pretty. In my view, any newspaper columnist, politician or talking head that calls our country a democracy should be discharged and never listened to again, so egregious and anti-American is that term.
Now we have another one: anyone who uses a poll to authenticate their position. Unless and until we can find a better way to conduct polls than phone calls, we should abandon them categorically and abandon anyone who uses them to mean anything.
Do you participate in polls?