Polling Aggregators Are Killing Polling

Matt Yglesias - Polling AggregatorsIt feels at times like we’re bombarded with poll coverage, but a little-noticed reality of the 2016 campaign is that we actually have many fewer polls out in the field than we are accustomed to…

The trend in favor of aggregating polls — whether using statistical modeling like FiveThirtyEight and the Upshot or simple averaging like RealClearPolitics or Huffington Post Pollster — has created a serious tragedy of the commons problem…

Smart people realized that you could actually get a much more accurate picture of the race by aggregating all the polls together so that idiosyncratic methodologies or sampling error would wash out. Combine this with the way the internet broke down barriers between different media outlets and we got the golden age of poll aggregation in 2008 and 2012. The problem, as Henry Farrell foresaw four years ago, is that once the prestige and attention shifted to the aggregators, it undercut the economic rationale for doing the polls. Why go through the expense of conducting a poll to figure out if Clinton is up by 6 in Wisconsin or just up by 2 if you’re just going to become another data point in someone else’s well-trafficked model?

—Matt Yglesias
Poll Aggregators Seem to Be Killing off Actual Polling

9 thoughts on “Polling Aggregators Are Killing Polling

  1. I’m pretty ambivalent about whether polls do more good than harm in the first place, so the phrase “serious tragedy of the commons” here strikes me as exaggerating both “serious” and “tragedy”.

    • I’m ambivalent about polls too. But to defend Yglesias, all he means by “serious” is that it is a strong or store example of the tragedy of the commons. One group of people is doing a bunch of work that is shared, but not getting compensated for it. Thus, they won’t continue to do it.

    • Mr. Bibeau is saving my sanity with his election-related stuff. His Hillary Who Controls The Very Fabric Of Space And Time character is screamingly funny.

    • The fact that Paul knows SurveyMonkey (a fairly bad polling outfit) shows that he is as addicted as I am. It was pretty damned funny.

  2. 538 was discussing this on their podcast last night. I think they ultimately came down on “aggregators may be causing some of this, but the biggest reason is probably that newspapers are losing money, and they’re the ones who historically did most of the polling.”

    • That was also discussed in the article. But there is a feedback. If people are going to 538 instead of the NYT, then the NYT isn’t making as much money.

  3. The polls are not where it’s at this election. Take a look at the electoral college map. That is a much more important indicator as to who will win.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *