May

11

 Preeminent statistician and election prognosticator Nate Silver, recently lamented on the problems pollsters are experiencing; and the recent election results in the UK may be a glaring example of their waning accuracy. Most pre-election polls called for a deadlock between the conservatives and the labor party and not the one-sided victory that actually transpired.silver listed the inability to reach voters over the telephone, and a growing distrust with probability sampling as two of the factors contributing to the pollsters' problem. To make matters worse, there have been instances where some pollsters withheld results when they differed from other surveys. Instead of acting independently from the other pollsters, some pollsters have herded with the popular consensus.

"Why Did A Rasmussen Reports Poll Disappear"

Jeff Sasmor writes: 

The Observer Effect , i.e. polls are generally less effective because people are bombarded with polls, surveys, etc. The act of observation is tainting the process.

Purchase a car lately? The salesman will explain to you how someone will call from the OEM and they'd like you to give them all "excellent" on all questions.

Use opentable and you're asked to post a review. Go to a website or use a company's interactive phone system and you'll be prompted to please take a short survey. Marketers and pollsters call on the phone several times a week to ask your opinion.

There's so much of that going on that many people won't participate. What does that do to the validity of the statistical methods used to process responses from people who refuse to play?


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  1. peter on May 11, 2015 9:28 am

    I learned as a trader: “stop using tools that provide no edge”.
    The market forces me to.

    It seems many media and polling agencies don’t have such a quality enforcing mechanism.
    They apply their text book methods no matter what.

    Next generation guys like Nate Silver don’t do that.
    They search for potential better approaches and “think out of the box”.

    (This is how it looks from the outside.)

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