Pundits and polls: Why the results are crap
Trump is president, yet the pundits and polls said it was not possible. Then, again, Trump received the Republican nomination purportedly “against all odds”. After the front and center prognostication of “NO WAY EVER!”, even when his nomination was mathematically “meant to be,” the media and even the party ubiquitously referred to him as the “presumptive” nominee. All were certain, in the eleventh hour, a savior on a white horse was on the way. Are they not the same pollsters who said Brexit (the UK’s economic separation from the European Union) had no chance? So what’s with these polls? Why are they wrong? Why do parties continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on them?
Relax, this article is not about the election. After two years of rhetoric and $2 billion spent, we are left with half the nation cautiously exuberant and the other half so ticked off they literally are lining the streets in protest and some preparing to move to Canada! Nothing against Canada, as it would be my first choice if I were leaving. Beautiful place, wonderful people, a loyal ally, but I am not leaving.
This article is not about the election, but rather an indictment of the polling process. Exhibit A reflects that approximately six months out, NBC had Clinton with a commanding ten point lead, well beyond the margin of error, thus, barring a smoking gun, statistically assured. As reflected in Exhibit B, the day before the election, Vegas odds makers, normally a rather precise and accurate crowd, had Clinton at a negative 300 favorite; meaning you bet $300 on a Clinton victory to win $100. In other words, a three to one likelihood of victory. They also had Trump as a plus 275 underdog, meaning 23/4 probability of losing. Meaning you bet $100 to win $275! Note how Vegas makes money — it’s on the spread: $275 - $300. Yet in the end, as reflected in Exhibit B, Trump won with 24% more electoral votes than Clinton, which could be characterized as a landslide except the fact that Clinton won the popular vote. So, what went wrong in the polls? Why were so many wrong, and not just wrong but WAY wrong? Why were the infallible fallible, and the flawless flawed? Polling is a science, not an art. It supposedly has advanced from the medieval reading of tea leaves. It is a mathematic prediction of behavior coupled with probability. As everyone is quick to now explain why they were so far off, such is little more than a feeble attempt at saving face. Okay, so people who voted for Trump didn’t want to admit such in an effort to avoid the badgering or debate. However, polling, if done properly, has the necessary protections against what we numbers people call contaminating variables.
Here are my thoughts:
With 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, we have a body of 535 individuals representing the other 319 million of us. First, in a departure from the Founding Fathers’ vision, that body is anything but “representative”. The butcher, the baker, and the candle stick makers no longer have a voice. These 535 policy makers, with their self-imposed title of society’s intelligentsia, feel they know better. They feel it is their duty to think for the masses whom they perceive as being unable to think for themselves. They do what they perceive is in our best interest, and do so under the attractive label of “social engineering”. Now fold into this recipe the biased media, and you have the purported “elite” of our nation.
However, in a democracy where majority rules, to ignore the masses whose support you will eventually need is a prescription for failure. Picture a private club where some members of the inner circle are referred to as the owners, as they run the committees that control the agenda and, thus the destiny of the club. Information is their power, and they hold that power close to the vest. That is, until their vision requires money, and it must go to the masses to solicit monetary support. Contrary to projections of success, vote after vote fails, not necessarily on the merits of the project, but rather as a rebuke of those that govern — typically due to the absence of transparency.
Politicians and the media alike, in their intellectual arrogance, always think they know better. They ignore the people in a democracy, and as time goes on, they insulate themselves from the sentiment of the populace. This is precisely why the polls are off. They measure what they want to measure, hear what they want to hear, and report what they want to report. More accurately, they report what they want you to think. Under the illusion of objectivity, they imply that they are open to all. Ever hear the phrase “fair and balanced reporting”? However, in their less than objective protocol they tend to overweight the variables that prove their premeditated hypothesis and underweight those in contrast. Even a Ph.D. candidate must succeed with a doctoral dissertation committee which stands guard against this bias. But no such committee exists in the real world where a dollar can influence or actually deliver a result.
Think Libya, with the overthrow of Gadhafi, Egypt with the overthrow of Mubarak and so many others. In each and every case, at its core, is a power that ignored the masses at their own inevitable peril.
Our take-away is on a more micro basis: Listen to our employees, visit the troops, walk the plant. Stay aligned with our customers and listen whether we agree or not. In the end, they have the power of the purchase dollar and can vote that power with their material spend.
While I have written around the incendiary, subject of the election results, it does appear a long overdue infrastructure spend is front and center which will bode well for the PVF industry. Perhaps a solid year, if anyone can remember what that might look like.
In closing, remember, as depicted in the bio series, America wasn’t discovered, it was built! Just 50 years after the Civil War we were already the world’s superpower. Think of Carnegie, Ford, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Edison and Rockefeller and what they built: auto, finance, shipping, rail, steel, oil. If not for people like them, where would we be? If not for people like us, where would we go?
Please stay the course, create those jobs and dream bigger and bigger. Our nation needs you.
“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” — Plato