On 11/12/06, Ursula Stange <Ursula@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
John's analysis is explanatory here as well. Not everyone will come 'round.
Not mine, I'm afraid, Gene McCracken's. But thanks for the opening. Allow me a slightly different tack. Eric asks a perfectly good question: Does polling itself affect events? The issue is how to answer it. If the answer is yes or no, supported only by anecdote and a priori reasoning--what we might call the usual mode of philosophical or pre-scientific thinking--it won't be worth much. The right way to frame the problem is "How much? And by what mechanisms?" The answer may then teach us something we didn't assume at the start. "How much?" turns out to be highly problematic? Eric directs our attention to a TV poll, which, as I read him, means poll results reported on TV, probably during a TV news program. If it has any impact at all, that impact is tempered by context, what comes before and after it, our opinion, if we have one concerning the polling organization and whether the results touch is one of our hot-button issues, and, of course, the spin put on the results by those who comment on them. If the program leads with, say, Britney Spears' divorce (headlined on CNN the day after the U.S. elections) and the poll is used as filler, that's one case. If the poll is the hot topic of the day, that's another. I am sure that anyone here can easily make up more scenarios. The question by what mechanisms turns out to be equally, if not more messy. Consider, for example, a real case. James Webb is running against George Allen in Virginia. Two months ago Webb is trailing 30 points in the polls, Allen is a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Then Webb's numbers start to rise. One effect is that folks like your author start hitting their credit cards for contributions to the Webb campaign. The news that Webb has gone neck and neck with Allen and is starting to beat Allen at the fund-raising came brings them back for a second hit. In the meantime Allen has had his "macaca" moment and fumbled the question of his Jewish heritage. His campaign's attempt to make an issue of some of the, yes, pretty gross (reality often is that way) descriptions in Webb's novels backfires, drawing snears from even the Washington Times and other conservative publications. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee notices a good chance here and comes on board with enough additional cash that Webb goes into the final week with 3 million dollars to Allen's 2. At the end of the day, Webb wins by around 7,000 votes in an election in which over 2 million ballots were cast. Did the polls play a part in this outcome? Of course they did, but only as one element in a complex process of which this description is only a brief and, in some respects, probably erroneous outline. Sorting out what actually happened is going to keep historians busy for quite some time. Cheers, John -- John McCreery The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN http://www.wordworks.jp/ US CITIZEN ABROAD? YOU'RE THE DECIDER! Register to Vote in '06 Elections www.VoteFromAbroad.org ------------------------------------------------------------------ To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off, digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html