A Different Approach To Polling

Whenever an election is approaching, a lot of energy — too much? — is spent on analyzing opinion polls, to figure out who we can expect to win. A common problem for most polls is that people are reluctant to admit to holding views that are socially problematic, ranging all the way from racism to deciding not to vote.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz suggests using Google search data to get a more accurate picture.

Comparing the timing of our Google searches to outside events is often intriguing. Searches for “McCain life expectancy” rose to unprecedented levels the day of his controversial choice of the Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. They rose again after Ms. Palin’s poorly received interview with Katie Couric.

Google data may also help us predict the composition of the 2012 electorate. Individuals may systematically deceive pollsters regarding their intentions, but actual voters are far more likely to Google phrases like “how to vote” or “where to vote” before an election.

The whole article is interesting, and recommended reading for the political junkies out there. With a few weeks to go, the data currently suggests an electorate with a similar composition to 2008, which is good news for the Obama campaign.

As for who will win the presidential election, I share the view of those betting on the outcome, giving Obama a 60-40 chance.

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