Bad Incentives

More

Josh Marshall on Zogby polls:

If there wasn't a record, you might think that Obama was heading for a major upset victory in PA next week. Zogby has Obama just one point behind Clinton at 45%-44%.

But remember, Zogby was out in front this year predicting Obama's big wins in California and Ohio too. So it's hard for me to put too much weight in this sounding.

This illustrates a real problem with the public polling game, namely the lack of incentives to get things right. Presumably there's some level of consistent wrongness at which people stop giving you the links, readership, buzz, and whatever else it is you're looking for but it's really not clear where that is. And, indeed, for your average media poll where the objective is to produce an "interesting" article accompanying the poll, you're probably better off being wrong.

Suppose I somehow screwed up my polling and got the result that 50 percent of African-Americans say they'll vote for John McCain in November if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. Does that sound plausible? No. Would it be a big story if I had a poll that said it was true? Yes. And if I'm in the business of producing big stories, then that means I run with the poll and come away very happy with a day's job well done.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Death of Film: After Hollywood Goes Digital, What Happens to Movies?

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In