It’s the fall season of an even-numbered year, and those of us in the United States know what that means: election time. In 2018, we’re facing the much-anticipated Midterm Elections. These elections typically see smaller voter turnout and media coverage, although, ironically, one vote has greater impact in smaller elections.
Where will the votes go? News organizations frequently make predictions of election results based on professional polling data collected by both their own teams and third-party companies. Data, in this instance, is collected differently but processed similarly to the data that those of us in the IT sector handle. A key to successfully predicting results is ensuring a well thought out and defined polling process is put in place from the get-go.
Objectively Seeking: Third-party organizations without political affiliation are certainly the most reliable sources of valuable data. But amongst a flood of content on the web, they can be difficult to find for the average consumer (and, sometimes, even news organization!). Fortunately, we at Trace3 know a thing or two about data and can thus evaluate the company providing the information and their analytics strategies. This election season, we are particularly fond of a joint project by The New York TImes and Siena College to collect and publish polling data in real time. Their research design, cold calling, is simple (more on its potential obstacles later); but their commitment to broadcast their results live is commendable in its transparency.
Do Your Research: Research basics, like sampling and survey design, are not just for scientists. Finding a representative sample (group of people polled) is a grand task in itself with the strategy often based on a random process (i.e. call every 10th number in the phone book). Survey design describes the writing, order, wording, and everything else that goes into creating a survey. Voluntary phone calls and Internet surveys face the standard issue of passion: individuals with a strong stance are more likely to participate than more neutral voters. That’s why, in more recent elections, AI technologies have been incorporated into election studies, with the emphasis resting on consumer web and social media activity. In any case, accurate data entry is crucial to churning out viable results. While data entry is often the intern’s first task, experts know that the numbers are only as good as their analytics.
Get Results: Unfortunately, the most effective way to track the outcome of a polling method is to simply wait and see as the results are tabulated and recorded. But as machine learning and associated technologies continue to advance, our ability to accurately predict results will improve substantially. The use of modern data platforms and machine learning will absolutley improve our abilty to accurately predict and forecast results. And remove the need to watch your favorite news broadcast for results.
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