Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Poll Man

There's been a lot of discussion about how wrong the pollsters have been in this primary season. Is it possible they're only wrong along generational lines?

I'd bet that the older you are, the less likely you are to want to give up information about yourself and your voting preferences. You're more interested in privacy, concerned about identity theft, and have so many demands made on you every day from marketers, financial institutions, and insurance bureaucrats, that your default position to the world is "mind your own business."

At the other end of the spectrum, for younger voters, telling the world about you is part of who you are. You're used to posting Facebook and MySpace pages that reveal every little detail about yourself -- your favorite bands, the food you like, the celebrities you wish you could be with, even where you'll be later tonight in case anyone wants to hang out with you. Acquiring online friends is important. The more people who say they agree with your taste, the more popular you are, and the more people who know it. So, being completely honest with some pollster doesn't seem at all invasive, because privacy is a fluid concept.

At least that's the theory. The reality may be that younger voters are in fact treating pollster preference questions just like they do the online world, but it has nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with popularity and a desperate attempt to be liked.

Bottom line: regardless of age, pollsters can't believe what the public tells them, and the public can't believe what pollsters tell us -- unless you're willing to accept a margin of error of 100%.