What Becomes Real

The polls have started to take over.

Every day there is a new measure of how far Obama has opened a lead against Romney in battleground states. The stats are all pretty much the same, one day O has a 5-point gain, another day he is up by 3. Some days it has Obama and Romney at a dead heat.

Every day I watch the polls, mesmerized. I know first hand that polls are pretty accurate, despite what anyone wants to believe. We’d all like to think that a one percent universe sample wouldn’t be enough to gauge the outcome of an election, but it’s true. There’s more science to polls than what people think.

But the question isn’t whether polls are accurate measurements. They are. The question is, what kind of influence does this constant measuring have on the one poll that counts in November? The media likes having the freshest update and people eat it up.

People like to pick a winner. Subconsciously, I think many people will watch the polls, watch a consensus build around a candidate and then fall in line, kind of like a snowball effect. In the end, it makes the election an organic process- the election isn’t one day in November, it plays out over the course of the campaign. The actual vote happens every day in scientifically random phone calls.

It’s not something we want to believe- that our future actions are influenced subtly without us knowing about it. We don’t so much focus on what a candidate is saying. We focus on what others are saying about a candidate. We don’t care what Obama and Romney say. We care about what our co-workers, our friends and our family are saying about them.

Elections happen every day and it’s likely more out of our hands than we realize.


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