Public opinion polling is the ultimate democratic process; it gives every person an equal voice in letting elected leaders know what they need and want. But in the eyes of the public, polls today are tarnished. Recent election forecasts have routinely missed the mark and media coverage of polls has focused solely on predicting winners and losers.
In Strength in Numbers, data journalist G. Elliott Morris argues that the larger purpose of political polls is to improve democracy, not just predict elections. Whether used by interest groups, the press, or politicians, polling serves as a pipeline from the governed to the government, giving citizens influence they would otherwise lack. No one who believes in democracy can afford to give up on polls; they should commit, instead, to understanding them better.
Morris takes listeners from the first semblance of data-gathering in the ancient world through to the development of modern-day scientific polling. He explains how the internet and "big data" have solved many challenges in polling—and created others. He covers the rise of polling aggregation and methods of election forecasting, reveals how data can be distorted and misrepresented, and demystifies the uncertainty of polling. Acknowledging where polls have gone wrong in the past, Morris charts a path for the industry's future.
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