At his Atlantic Correspondents blog, Conor Clarke revisits his Heisenbergian questions over whether political polling is, in fact, bad, by virtue of its inaccuracies and influence on the very opinions and voting preferences it seeks to measure:
1. Let me make one big concession at the start. I wouldn't vote for a law than banned polls, and were I dictator of the universe I wouldn't want to outlaw them. (I'm a fan of free speech; I'd get that first amendment tattoo in a heartbeat; etc.) The position that I would feel more comfortable defending is something like "polls are on balance a bad thing." Or, even more milquetoasty: "polls are not the best use of newspaper resources."
2. I hope that goes along way towards addressing the main thrust of Ed Kilgore's argument -- namely, that I am weirdly in favor of reducing the total amount of information that exists in the public sphere. I think it's fair to say, with Ed, that there should be a strong presumption in favor of putting additional information in the public sphere. But I think that's very different from saying the current level of information is optimal or desirable.
3. I think there is an easy extension of points #1 and #2: Producing information isn't free. A dollar that the New York Times spends on a poll is a dollar that it isn't spending on a Baghdad bureau or a congressional beat reporter. Well, that's not really how tradeoffs work. But the general point -- you have to measure something against its opportunity cost -- is one I agree with and one that is relevant here. So one question to consider might be this: Could the resources that the Times and the Post spend on polls be better spent elsewhere?
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.