Riding the Bandwagon Effect

Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?  Robert Orben

During election season and even in the months before an election is even called, we are besieged by poll after poll weighing in on the relative popularity of various candidates, issues, or political parties. Though opinion polls date back to the 19th century, the rise of professional polling organizations, including the venerable Gallup poll, has made polling a crucial part of the election process in countries around the world. 

Despite the reputation for objectivity surrounding opinion polls though, there have been some legendary failures due to problems with biased questioning and how "random" some polls really are.  Though most polls, including the Gallup poll, predicted Harry S Truman's defeat in the 1948 presidential election,  he won instead.  To their embarrassment, some newspapers relied on poll results to print "Dewey Defeats Truman" headlines in their papers for the morning after the election (these papers have since become collector's items.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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