We all learned a hard lesson on the night of November 8. Nearly every single election poll had Hillary Clinton winning by a sizeable margin. The gold standard, Nate Silver’s 538 website, which mashes hundreds of state by state polls into their algorithm had her winning with 302 electoral votes, 32 more than needed. Their model projected that there was only a 10.5% chance that Clinton would win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College. To make matters worse, they had already adjusted for likely voters, so turnout should hardly have affected their conclusions. Despite being so wrong this time, like everyone else, in 2008 and 2012, 538 got every single state and DC right in their model. My question is very simple: If the most sophisticated and redundant survey systems available got a simple binary choice wrong, how can we trust the surveys we use in business (which are much more complicated) to make decisions about where to invest media and marketing money and what the intended result will be? Maybe it’s time for a little review on surveys.
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