Pollsters telling you what you want

Not so fast…

Kerry Knudsen

ARE YOU HEADED TO LAS VEGAS later this month for TISE? Your Coverings Canada Night invitation will be included with your registration. Come to the Border Grill just after the show closes on Tuesday to wind down, meet old and new friends, and show off Canada’s industry profile. Cheers!

I NOTICED SOMETHING interesting in the recent British election in which Boris Johnson came out the majority winner. To put it in context, remember that all the media reported the race as, “too close to call.”

The night of the election, the exit polling showed a different story — a smashing win for Johnson’s Conservatives, with a projected majority of 384 seats. The British pundits said that the final tally may not be exactly 384, but that the particular poll in question was “highly credible,” had never been off by more than 15 seats and we were safe to assume the majority would hold near 384.

Well, it didn’t. The final tally was 365. The media cruised right by the fact that their revered, never-wrong- by-15 poll was wrong by 19 — a greater-than- 20-percent error. To be clear, 20 percent is a lot. In fact, it’s so much it makes the poll worthless.

In today’s hyper-politically charged atmosphere, I think this fact is worth noting, as it goes to audience manipulation by the media. To be clear about media, I am one, have been for a while, and know what I’m saying.

The fact is, the media runs on ads and ads run on audience. No audience hangs around to hear the end of a foregone race. It’s like a baseball game where people leave in the 7th when the score is 12 to 2. They are saying, “Life’s demands are pressing, and this one’s done,” so it’s in the media’s interests to create drama to keep people’s attention from wandering off — to give the impression the game is still too close to call.

Concurrently, politicians need to advertise where the audience’s attention is focused, and they spend millions of dollars in the States, and spread the spend over years. Effectively, the presidential election cycle begins three years out. Therefore, you have millions of ad dollars in play, a contentious political environment and a handful of national news outlets competing for their share of the millions.

Along come the polls. You may recall the 2016 election. I sent out an e-letter the morning of the election pointing out that I thought, despite every poll showing a landslide victory for Clinton, that there was something wrong in the polling, and I called a Trump win. I am not a Trump cheerleader, and I do not have a history of making wrong calls. I did, however, have enough confidence in my sources and the way I read them that I called the election correctly, and was very lonely in that prediction until about 1:00 the next morning.

Does this mean I’m some kind of super-pundit? Not at all. It does, however, mean I have a great deal of skepticism about what the media is up to, I watch other sources and I make sure I am educated. At this point, I guess the upshot is that the credibility of polls is very suspicious, and it appears they are being manipulated to generate excitement between the two parties as if they are each some kind of sports team, the purse being the keys to the U.S. treasury, its nuclear arsenal and millions in promotional money for the cheerleaders.

And the kicker is, even if the press is acting totally outside the facts and is doing so for money and fame, there is essentially nothing we can do about it. The press is protected.

You should not like this. What it means is that we are moving rapidly to a system in which the things you, as readers, want are not relevant, but rather the publishers will pander to suppliers and special interests, including government, and will provide you with what they want you to want, as “proved” by polls.

I like surveys. I use them to learn what sellers, installers and designers of floorcovering products in Canada are interested in. Already we at W.I. Media are finding severe hurdles because of survey fatigue, and once in a while we get a claim from a would be advertiser that we have somehow “biased” a question. We don’t bias surveys, but we know how it’s done, and it is clear that we are in a commercialized market where you do not get what you want, but will be obliged to want what you get. Or else.

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