What if the polls just stopped working?
Admittedly, this needs work as a plot device for a
This week, businessman
Bevin's win was big political news for a lot of reasons.
The results in
But the thing I find most intriguing about Bevin's victory is that his opponent,
"What's ironic," writes
It's a national, and international, trend. The polls underestimated the scope of the 2014 midterm elections. Elections and referenda in
My colleague at the
There are lots of reasons for why polling is going haywire and getting more difficult. Response rates have plummeted. Landlines are disappearing. We're getting fed up with surveys to the point where many would side with Hannibal Lecter in his confrontation with that census taker.
Obviously, polls won't disappear, even if they're becoming less reliable. But would it really be so terrible if they did vanish? Modern polling began in the 1930s. But democracy is a good bit older. Before polls, politicians still managed to figure out what their constituents wanted. How? By talking to them. They also talked to local officials, prominent citizens and journalists. The horror!
This is hardly the first time changes in the technological landscape have changed the political landscape. Political conventions were once raucous, dramatic events where party leaders from across the country hammered out their differences face to face. As political analyst
"As long distance spread in the 1950s and '60s," Barone wrote, "politicians could negotiate and convey information confidentially over the phone -- something that was possible only at the national convention city in the days of multiballot conventions."
I don't want to get rid of phones, but I think we lost something valuable when politics started becoming hashed out more conversationally.
Similarly, I don't want to ban polls, but they have their downside. They encourage leaders to become followers. When staring at polling data, too many politicians become afraid to voice their convictions or make the effort to convince the public to go a better way.
You can argue that following the polls is democratic, but it's a cheap and shallow form of democracy. We are also a republic, and in republics leaders are expected to do what they think is right, not just popular. Toppling the tyranny of polls would put arguments back at the center of politics. And that's as it should be.