A part of me would love to go ‘full jugular’ on some people who thought they knew so much more about a subject than those who’d been doing it with some success for years. I’ve focused on this for a few days after a lawyer of some note challenged by understanding of foreign exchange (FX) markets. Even if my theoretical understanding wasn’t enough, I’ve worked as the economist/analyst in an FX dealing room and I have traded my own FX account. I know nothing about the workings of judicial systems in details, though I’ve done jury service and I can deduce certain things from readying court judgements. I’d think it highly arrogant to challenge a Queen’s Counsel or senior attorney on that topic. Yet…
But, I’m now looking at critics of polls. I’m no pollster and I actually pay little attention to political polls; that’s easier because none of my activities really derive their success or failure from what polls may tell me. I could check if my writing is popular or not, but as I write to clear my own thoughts, it’s not going to change what I do. Hence, when my wife says “You should write…” a shield drops down, immediately, to block out the idea.
An election candidate last week suggested that pollsters needed to have qualifications (pollster Don Anderson “needs academic training”); I gently asked what that should be. Next thing (well, after a few hours), my little question was featuring in a national newspaper.
I don’t know what academic training Mr. Anderson has, and I’m not sure why it would be relevant. If such training were essential, then it could be bought and brought in.
This all becomes more interesting because one of the themes now coming out of the heavy defeat suffered by the PNP was how their ‘internal’ polling (and I don’t know if it was done by ‘academically trained’ pollsters) failed to pick up the clear losing trend noted by the established polls by Don Anderson and Bill Johnston, amongst others.
The co-chairman of the PNP campaign, Philip Paulwell, ‘said that the party was misled by its internal polls as he reflected on how the PNP had brushed aside three national polls which indicated that the party was trailing badly the JLP:
“I did not believe in the polls because in our own estimation and the work that we were doing, we just never saw that. The polls that we did, for example North Trelawny, saw us winning by 18 points. We lost it tremendously last night!”
Personally, I think focusing on being misled by internal polls misses the point entirely that few in high places in that party had a good feel for what was going on in the minds, hearts, and souls of the population. Polls may give indications of that, but those on the ground should have felt in coming through their soles.
It’s interesting that the disaffection with PNP seems to have been so obvious to so many for so long, yet was not felt palpably by those who were running the party.
All the navel gazing that went on after the last election and the more intense searching for direction that should have gone on as local elections were lost, parliamentary by-elections were lost, and general elections approached didn’t pick up on this?
Whoever in the PNP believed that a manifesto that seemed to change by the hour, and included what most saw as an election gimmick or, worse, a ‘bag of tricks’ was a vote winner ought to be hunting for a private island for some long-term isolation and quarantine from their own minds.
‘Group think’ is a common failing in organizations, and it can mark their death spiral. ‘Being too smart for your own good’ is also often fatal. Put them together, and watch water and calcium carbide combine. Also, when people think—especially with ‘academic training’ —that they are so much brighter than others that they don’t need to hear anything but what they themselves have to say, then ‘Hasta la vista, baby!