Accurate? No. I don’t think they ever were. Representative, perhaps.
But I am not of the school that believes data is 100% accurate. I just don’t feel data can ever be that accurate.
For example, the Trident gum advertisement says “4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend Trident gum for their patients who chew gum.” How many dentists were surveyed? 5? 10? Were they dentists, periodontists, etc. I don’t have all the information to make an educated decision about this.
It might be worth considering how reliant we are on polls to drive our decision making. For example, the 2016 election in the US. How many people DIDN’T go vote because they were sure Clinton had it locked up based on almost every polling metric? That’s impossible to say, but worth considering. I would argue that WE have a civic responsibility to interpret data that is presented to us…not let it dictate our decisions.
I’ll go one step further, almost ALL polling has Joe Biden leading the Democratic race right now. Even much of traditional media is presenting that. But if you consider other media (Mother Jones, The Intercept, ProPublica, etc.), the volume of people that show up for either Warren or Sanders events or look at social media to gauge the public, I have to wonder exactly who the pollsters are polling. A recent straw poll on Daily Kos has Warren light years ahead of the competition and Joe Biden in fourth or fifth place.
I’m not entirely convinced it is a polling issue. Partly, yes. However, we as thinking beings have a responsibility to examine and interpret the data as we see it. We have to make sure we understand, at least fundamentally, what went into the polls. And then lastly, we just can’t let polls dictate decisions.
But a “silent majority”? I wouldn’t rule that out…I might ask if it is really silent or are the pollsters simply ignoring it? I tend to fall into that latter camp.
For me, polls are just more information. And that’s never a bad thing.
One final thought, at their core, regardless of educational pedigree, I happen to feel that pollsters are very much like Las Vegas oddsmakers. And, no disrespect intended, but oddsmakers don’t carry the same societal gravitas as pollsters. And perhaps they should.
Thanks for the thoughtful question and for reading!