Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mystic Polls

The Oracle of Delphi, the first pollster.
It's that time of the election cycle that pundits obsess over each minor fluctuation of the bewildering mass of polls released daily. Clinton leads Trump by 3 points in Florida; Trump is dead. Trump leads Clinton by five point; Hillary is in trouble. One reason I like Nate Silver's is that they see polls for what they are - not pinpoint accurate but suggestive of a range. Even then, their predictive accuracy can only be determined after the election is completed. Before the election, polls are really just educated guesses.

Pollsers are the modern oracles and fulfill our childish need for mystical seers who can predict fate and calm our terror of an unknown future. And like the ancient oracles, pollsters are as much smoke as science. In November, some of today's pollsters will be declared master diviners who accurately predicted the future. Others will be proven charlatans who couldn't predict a coin flip with 50% accuracy.

Pythia was the virgin priestess of Apollo at his temple in Delphi. She would would meditate surrounded by  mysterious vapors and utter something incomprehensible which her priests would interpret as a prophesy. The only difference between this and modern pollsters is the use of hallucinogenic vapors but we don't know what the pollsters are smoking.

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