Polling has a strong allure in an election for many reasons. It appears to make it possible to call the “horse race” before the steeds come through the home stretch. It also has the appearance of objectivity, since it is supposedly based on a dark science that few people know enough to question. Polls are a story that falls into the laps of reporters, allowing them to write a piece on an election without any more work than reading a column of numbers.
Yet polls are nowhere near adequate for describing an election, even without getting into the difficulties of the math. Like so many things in our world today, polling fails because of a flawed assumption at the heart of it long before the technical stuff that jazzes it into what appears to be irrefutable facts. It’s not simply a matter of who is included in the poll, either – it’s the simple fact that democracy belongs to those who show up, not a percentage of a population.