Notice: I have a new item up behind the green door. This is a post about the movie Avatar and how it relates to the increasingly fantastical world of the Left.
It is becoming popular on the Right to dismiss polling as nothing more than another part of the endless gaslighting from our rulers. Like the news, it is assumed that the polls are fake, at least regarding Donald Trump. For sure, there are a lot of bogus polls and even more bogus poll stories. Like everything else in this age, the quality of polling has steadily declined. That said, there may be some other issues beyond deceit that are undermining the utility of political polling.
One obvious problem is the demand side. The media has always liked polling because it is cheap content. It allows them to discuss the results of an event, like a presidential election, for months before it actually happens. Polling stories are just a way to pretend the election already happened. Then as the polls change, and they always do, the media can talk about those changes. That also opens the door for so-called experts, who can provide “expert” commentary on the polls.
Of course, supply naturally follows demand, so Gallup was followed by other polling outfits supplying opinion surveys to the media. The explosion of media over the last thirty years has caused an explosion in demand for polling. One reason we have so much bad polling now is the same reason we have fake news. There is only so much good quality material, so the void is filled with low-quality material. Fake news has replaced real news and fake polling is crowding out good polling.
Polling is a business. These companies don’t just do presidential polls every four years. They make the bulk of their money doing work for the political establishment and corporate clients. If you want to know if your new slogan resonates with the public, hire a polling firm to test it out in key markets. If you want to know if the deceptive name for your amnesty bill will fool the public, have a polling company do a survey of your voters to find out if they fall for it.
This is where polling may be running into trouble without really knowing it. They no longer have many different clients with different requirements. In reality, the big polling outfits have one client, Politics Inc. One of the ironic aspects of the liberal democratic age is politics is now big business. Billions are spent on elections, which means there is a political industrial complex serving that industry. Consultants, policy experts, money-men, organizers and so on live off politics.
When the Democrat party went all in on the Russian conspiracy hoax, major news outlets created divisions just to perpetuate it. The New York Times reorganized their “news room” just to promote the hoax. All those “reporters” sitting in cubicles grinding out content needed material, so the vast political-industrial complex was happy to provide quotes, rumors and anecdotes to make it happen. The Russia hoax quickly moved from conspiracy theory to being a jobs program.
This dynamic in which politics is a vast economy of its own may be breaking the old political polling model. Instead having lots of clients that change every election cycle, the polling industry has one big client – the political industrial complex. The candidates and issues may change from election to election, but the people hiring the vendors is always the same. It is the same consultant class, the same media class and the same organization men. There is one client now, Washington.
An interesting example of this is the Trafalgar Group. This is the polling outfit that predicted a Trump victory in 2016. They have been getting a lot of attention this year, because they are once again predicting a Trump win. All the other polling outfits are predicting a Biden landslide. Naturally, Trump friendly media is now all over these guys as they are saying what they like to hear. To a lesser degree, Rasmussen remains a fan favorite, as they report positive polling about Trump as well.
According to the Trafalgar Group, 2016 was the first time they did presidential polling, as polling was a small part of their business. After 2016, political polling became the biggest part of their business. If they turn out to be right in 2020, it is safe to assume that polling will be their only business. That means their only client will be the political industrial complex. Business is business and in business, the customer is always right, so it is not hard to see where this will lead.
Something similar happened to the credit agencies. For the longest time they made their money supplying a wide range of clients with objective credit analysis. Banks would rely on them to provide credit reports on borrowers. Investors would rely on them to rate corporate and government bonds. Government and corporations would use them as part of their evaluation of employees in sensitive positions. A spy agency, for example, does not want a man with money problems.
Then a funny thing happened in the 1990’s. The Wall Street investments firms started to become the dominant customer. The proliferation of investment vehicles meant a spike in demand for credit analysis. Soon, Wall Street was crowding out all the other business, as they cooked up more and more exotic instruments. It also meant a much closer working relationship between the two sides. The customer is always right and everyone does a solid for a friend in need.
By the time the mortgage bubble was ready to burst, the credit agencies were just slapping AAA on everything that crossed their desk. The clients were happy and no one was complaining about the fees, so why not? The same thing may be happening with the polling outfits. They supply polling results that make the client happy and they get paid well for it. Note that none of the polling outfits that got 2016 completely wrong suffered as a result of their errors.
The goofy TV pollster Frank Luntz made a startling admission the other day on Fox News when he said the polling industry is dead if they are wrong this time. In other words, if Trump wins in two weeks, polling becomes fake news. In a sane world he would probably be right, but as long as the political industrial complex is in business, they will be gaslighting the public on behalf of their client. That means they will want polling, even if it is based on wishful thinking.
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