Digesting poll results means chewing over the data carefully

Digesting poll results means chewing over the data carefully

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

Like grief (OK, not entirely), there appear to be five stages to the way journalists, political junkies and various interested folks consume political polls.

Stage one is Keen Top-Line Craving, in which survey readers gluttonously gobble data tables, mumbling, mouths full, “gimme the numbers, the sweet, sweet horserace numbers!” In this stage, the primary concern involves devouring knowledge of who’s up, who’s down, and who might win an election.

It’s time to regurgitate in Stage Two: Amplification without Context. This is where poll readers share on social media the single polling data point with which they profoundly agree (ooooh!) – or vehemently disagree (oh no!) – with corresponding glee or outrage.

Indigestion is the primary sensation that accompanies Stage Three: Comparison Confusion, wherein the realization that (gasp!) different pollsters may have different results contributes to feelings of bewilderment, dizziness, hostility and a general sense of unease.

No one wishes to linger in the gastric pain that is Stage Three, so like a thick, soothing, pink spoonful of bismuth subsalicylate, it’s on to Stage Four: Pseudo Expertise. The pollsters don’t all say the same thing because of malfeasance! Grand conspiracy! General mischief! String them up! Hang them high!

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site, where it was initially published.