Monday, November 5, 2012

Sub-Post: On the Boringness of Polling Statistics

This Tuesday evening, at 4:38 p.m., the sun will go down in Chicago. The circumstances under which it will do so are up for grabs: according to the Weather Channel, there is a 10% chance of rain, and rain is generally associated with the sun's being obscured by clouds. (Granted, I'm only looking at data for Midway Airport. The estimate for Chicago as a whole gives a higher chance of showers.) I also estimate that there's a 35% chance of the sun's being clouded over without it raining, since both The Weather Channel and Weather Underground predict that it will be partly cloudy. So unless there's systematic bias in the predictions, we're looking at a 55% chance that we'll see the sun. Things get more interesting from here. It's usually assumed that…

Isn't that insufferable? And it's not because it's about an inherently boring subject: the sun, after all, is the most beautiful and terrifying object in the cosmos. "Fierce and bold, in fiery gold, he glories all effulgent!"

So it is with politics. I couldn't care more that the right man get elected. I couldn't care less how Nate Silver thinks he will, and how that differs slightly from the Real Clear Politics Average. I couldn't care less about the nonzero possibility that the election will be thrown to the House of Representatives, or that the electoral vote and the popular vote will diverge.

May God have mercy on all of us.

I don't mean to denigrate this bizarre obsession with monotonous, unreliable data that will be utterly irrelevant by Wednesday morning. I only mean to suggest that it's okay to be interested in politics but not in pointless polling data.

I suspect that there are others who feel the same way. Come to my side!

1 comment:

Jonathan Katz said...

Consider this artistic data, young Jonathan!

(Although I sometimes feel the same way as you do.)