This is the quadrennial season when we get weedy about political polling. This is also the season when, because it is political polling, some mug feels obliged to question the authenticity of the polls. The polls are subject to the same defamation that infects most political discourse these days. There are voices that expect a certain blind yassuh-boss gulping-whole of whatever drivel they’re selling.
Cynicism is easy. Uncomfortable facts, we think, can be explained away. Facts are not like that. Facts are stubborn and ignored at our peril.
All we need is a little perspective. Perspective in this case requires that we paid attention in math class and have a nodding acquaintance with the rules of logic.
That’s a tall order. After all, ignorance is honored on many soap boxes and is a prerequisite to membership in some political movements.
That said, everything we need to learn is available to us stress-free. Neither is it something we can’t learn in an afternoon. Not that it comes cheap. You don’t get to criticize if your basic knowledge is informed by half-assed opinion, wishful thinking or the utterances of those who aren’t clothed with expertise in the topic.
Terms like Margin of Sampling Error, Push Poll, Shy Tory Effect, Bradley Effect, Social Desirability Bias and Weighting will get you a long way.