Friday, November 25, 2016

The purpose of pre-election polls?

While there are others, the ones I've noticed are :
Delhi State Elections, both of the last 2 times;
Bihar State Elections
and then internationally:
Brexit referendum, UK
Presidential Election, US

What do these elections/referendum have in common?
In all of them, the polls commissioned and shared by the dominant
mainstream media channels and newspapers of that country and
internationally, in the run-up to the grand finale, all mispredicted
the result, massively. They said sun and pointed at moon.

In all of these cases, the reigning establishment - the dominant
status quo - the side that the corporate elites backed - was what was
predicted by the polls to win, but lost. And the other
anti-establishment side, which depending on the occasion was
relentlessly attacked by the media in all kinds of ways, ended up
winning.

And these were landmark fork-in-the-road occasions too : times when
there were clear and distinct choices to choose from, where the
electorate actually had a choice rather than the tired old game of
choosing one of identical options.

So what was it that made all these pre-election (and pre-referendum)
polls fail so badly? While there have been many post-mortem
explanations, I'll try to introduce a different angle : by
re-examining the question.

What is the true purpose of these pre-voting polls?
Conventional answer : to guage and report the public sentiment and to
predict what the vote's outcome would be.

But if that were true, then these polls have been failing
catastrophically and consistently, and you would have expected to see
some serious disruption and course-change in this industry. Yet the
same pollsters and the same people did them and reported them, both in
India's case and in USA-UK's case.

I'd like to offer a different purpose.

The purpose of these polls is to influence the final vote.

By repeatedly telling you that side A is going to win and that's what
most of your fellow citizens support, they seek to make you believe
that is the side you should be supporting too.

"You" is multiplied millions of times over. Everybody is privately
told that "A is what everybody else is supporting so you better do it
too. And if you are believing otherwise then you better keep your
mouth shut to avoid any rejection / embarrasment amongst all the
people you live and work with".

Under normal circumstances, come voting day, and people do as they've
been told, and then the final result of the vote is.. totally in line
with what the pollsters had predicted. Everything works as planned and
so nobody finds out what really happened. Did the polls just predict
the vote or influence it.. heck, the results were the same so nobody
cares!

What we miss out noticing, is that what the polls had predicted, ended
up influencing the actual vote, and so rather than the poll being a
reflection of what will happen, what happens on voting day ends up
reflecting what the polls were predicting.

That is, the final vote obeys the polls.

This would be difficult to achieve with just one source and one
station, but if the dominant status quo manages to co-opt the whole
umbrella of public information discourse : all or nearly all the
mainstream newspapers and TV news channels and magazines and academia
networks and now even virally shared items on social media, then they
can successfully guide the public into voting the way they want them
to vote.

The only occasion when the chinks in this mechanism's armour show up,
is, as is true in industrial applications, under failure conditions.
That's when the proverbial curtain gets caught up in the winds of
dissent and is momentarily lifted. revealing a brief glimpse of what's
behind.

On the occasions I mentioned above, I believe that's what has
happened, and the mainstream media got caught in the act trying to
influence the final vote. We have caught them abandoning journalistic
standards and trying their hardest to influence the vote. Heck, even
after the vote they are STILL trying to influence the outcome.

The true purpose of the widespread, repeated and v-high-coverage
pre-vote polling by mainstream media is not to predict the vote, but
to make it go the way they want it to.

What's the alternative?
Well, first things first, what a good researcher would do is to cut
out all the external factors that may influence the experiment. So
yes, these polls need to be recognized as what they really are and
taken down from their current highly respected position. Rather, they
serve only the ends of the competing parties, as a market research so
they can guage where they are and strategise what to do next. Let the
parties do their own research if they truly want to stay ahead of the
curve, instead of mainstream news organizations wasting millions in so
unreliably doing their job for them.

Instead, we would benefit a lot more if that much time were instead
taken up in letting the competing sides offer their arguments and
submit their information.
Isn't it silly, that at the very start of campaign season, before the
public has had any chance to even go through the options on the table,
they are being bombarded with predictions of what the outcome would
be?

It's the equivalent of going to a restaurant with your family and the
waiter, instead of giving you the menu, starts yapping about what that
family over there is having and what everybody else is having and so
what you should be having. Imagine asking this waiter for the menu,
and he gives you only a list of what most of the other people are
having instead of what all the options on the menu are, with the
most-ordered item on top with percentage points and all the prices
removed. If you enquire about the other options available, this waiter
starts bitching and trash-talking about the other options, so as to
make you choose the one he's recommending. Then you ask him for the
actual MENU and he tells you, "No, I'm not going to give you that. If
you're so desperate for it, why don't you go to our restaurant's
official website and look it up yourselves?"

You're damn right we will. We don't need to give a shit about what
everybody else is ordering; we're distinct individuals and we want to
order what we want to eat ourselves.

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