The New Yorker interviews Nate Cohn about what happened with the polls this year. These two paragraphs are sticking with me, because the first positions polling at the very center of our democracy…and the second basically tells us we’re screwed.
If you can’t tell the story of an election at the end of it, then the democratic process has some serious problems. Because, in a democracy, politicians need to reflect the will of the electorate, and if you cannot do a good job of interpreting the will of the electorate at any given time, our politicians won’t either. And you end up in a position where the public may not be happy with what politicians try and do on their behalf. And so I think it’s a serious problem that the polls were wrong to the extent that they were this year.
I don’t think there is a good alternative to public polling. I don’t think we have other ways to measure the attitudes of a really diverse country. I think that without polling we would mainly consider the views of ourselves and our neighbors and our like-minded friends. And so we need tools to reach out to people who are very different from us in order to understand our country well. I don’t think that on-the-ground reporting cuts it. Face-to-face polling exists, and it doesn’t work all that much better anyway.