Why We Still Haven’t Learned the Lessons From Four Years Ago
After the debacle with polls in 2016, why were we so quick to believe again?
Four years ago, a large percentage of Americans, and spectators around the world, were shocked by the “unexpected” outcome of the U.S. election.
The outcome was “unexpected” only for those who were locked in the echo chamber of their social feeds and blindly believing the media coverage and the pollsters.
Four years later, it seems we haven’t learned the lessons from 2016. The media once again has hit heavy daily polling results, claiming that this time it’s different.
It’s not different.
Why We Are Tempted By Polling Results
The desire to believe in polls is understandable: uncertainty makes us freak out.
We are wired to need certainty; we want — actually, need — to know what is going to happen. So we’ll cling to anything that seems reasonable.
This year, as the pandemic has shattered our previous illusions of certainty, it’s even more tempting to believe in the polls, especially if they’re telling you what you want to hear — but even if they’re not.
Our desire for certainty is so great that we’ll cling to certainty even if the “certainty” we get is the outcome we don’t want.
We just want to know. When life feels unresolved, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand.
We want to have it settled, so we can focus on other things.
So it’s understandable why we might once again put our faith in the news reports and the polls. We don’t just want to believe. We need to believe so that we can feel resolved.
Please do not do this.
5 Reasons Why You Can’t Believe the Polls
Here are some things to keep in mind about polls, and why you might want to temper your belief in them:
- Framing is Critical. The way you frame a question can influence the answer.
- Polls Don’t Tell You Who Votes. There’s no guarantee that the voting sample looks like the polled sample.