Days of Change

Day 1157 – The Uncertainty Principle

January 5, 2012

In physics, the forces involved in subatomic reactions are so small that the energy used to measure and observe them have an effect on them. In fact, there is a limit to the information we can reliably know about subatomic particles. It is known as the uncertainty principle. In the real world, the effect is not discrete. Something can be affected in different ways by being observed. We generally call that the observer effect in psychology.

So, I’m going to merge modern physics and human psychology using the even more complex particle-wave duality. A decent physics class will usually shoot a laser (or at least a focused LED beam) through a diffraction grating.

You will notice that among the dots of light, the ones in the middle seem to be brighter. This is because more photons collect in the middle of the diffraction pattern than in the outer edges. It is a predictable ratio. What we are unable to do is determine which individual photon of light will bounce through the diffraction grating to a particular dot on the wall. We only know the likelihood.

This is how opinion polling works. If you ask one person who they vote for in a primary and they say Mitt Romney, it doesn’t mean 100% of people will. If you ask two people, you will get a 50-50 result (or 100-0, depending on how lopsided the opinions are). 100 people will give you precision down to 1%, but much lower accuracy. Pollsters have come up with magic numbers from a few hundred to 1000 people to yield results accurate to within 4%.

Here’s the problem. Those polls are an initial indicator, but like the uncertainty principle, they start to affect the result. In Iowa, the earliest “vote” was a straw poll months ago. Michele Bachmann’s inexplicable win made her a front-runner. That status was followed by polls that were turned into stories. A mistake on her part was polled again, and her drop in those polls created yet another story. As each candidate entered the news cycle, they were polled and those results were turned into stories. All the while, voters were reading those polls.

The most outrageous example was last chance candidate Rick Santorum. A shift in support equal to the margin of error became a story. The story was that Santorum was the closest one to beat Mitt Romney. Voters then had an idea that this person was the one they would need to strategically vote for if they wanted Romney to lose. It was not retail politicking, it was retail polling.

Polling is literally killing democracy. The more precise polling becomes, the more predictive it becomes. Not only does the polling end up right, it now must be right. Margin of error, sample size, cross tabs and polling bias do not exist. If someone has a 2% “lead,” it’s not a fake story about a margin of error. It is now a verifiable fact that 100% of voters represent that 2% gap.

I’ve had it with the bastards. If you are asked a poll question, lie. Tell them you’re supporting Fred Karger. Hell, tell them you’re an Obama supporter. Make these false prophets look like the tin gods they are. It would certainly make votes, not polls, actually count.

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