And I thought it was hard to keep my opinions to myself last week!
I didn’t know the half of it.
But I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer.
So here you go…
The entire public polling and election forecasting enterprise needs to be incinerated.
Dead. Finished. Never to return.
I’m not jumping on a bandwagon. I was its first passenger. Our crusade started half a decade ago. We banned horse race polling in our company ever since.
The golden age of political polling came and went long ago. When everyone had a landline. Everyone answered when it rang. Everyone trusted institutions.
The population was relatively homogenous. There were a couple TV networks, a newspaper, no cable news, and definitely no social media. Unions voted D. Suits voted R.
The electorate is changing too fast today. Demographics are shifting, coalitions are reshuffling. The psychographics of our people are changing – by the minute – faster than any turnout model could ever keep up with.
Making things worse, as distrust in polls spreads, people avoid them or answer insincerely. It’s true.
Large-scale elections are impossible to predict with precision.
I repeat. Impossible.
Meanwhile, the implications of being wrong are too dire. It serves zero public good.
In fact, it’s a societal evil.
Political polling affects elections in untoward ways. It suppresses votes. It channels donations. It misinforms.
Pollsters don’t do those things purposely, by the way. Their entire livelihood is predicated on being accurate and credible. The insinuation that pollsters would deliberately get a race wrong as part of some grand conspiracy against a particular candidate is bat-shit crazy. Don’t be ridiculous.
To be clear, I have no problem with internal pollsters. Polling to develop campaign strategy or messaging is legit. It’s the ones you read about in the news that need to disappear.
The reason we’re always right at CivicScience is because we don’t try to predict things that are inherently unpredictable. Also, our data is awesome.
People have no visceral reason to lie about their favorite gaming console or chicken sandwich. If our projections to the full U.S. population are off by a few hundred people, nobody gets to appoint Supreme Court justices over it.
We need to stop gamifying election forecasts, once and for all. There are five hundred and thirty-eight other ways to show off your data smarts. Find another guest for your talk show.
Elections are too important.
This is what we’re seeing:
Consumer confidence took an ugly turn before the election, as public outlook for COVID hit a new low point. Our Economic Sentiment Index had its first downward slide since early August, with views on the job market looking particularly gloomy. It might be as simple as attributing it to the rising coronavirus cases and deaths across the country. Half of Americans now expect social distancing measures to last 6 months or more. That’s the highest number we’ve seen, a full 9 months into the pandemic. It’s too soon to tell how the election outcome will affect the national mood. We’ll know more by next week.
Meanwhile, people are growing increasingly hesitant about a COVID vaccine, should one become available. The percentage of Americans who said they would get a coronavirus vaccine immediately reached a new low watermark of 22% last week. It seems to be dragging down comfort levels with vaccines of all kinds, in fact. One interesting observation, however, is that the people who are least concerned about COVID are the ones who claim they will get a vaccine first. Presuming they’re also the same people flaunting social distancing norms, I suppose that’s who we’d want to get vaccinated first anyway. Right?
Job searching is way up, even among people who haven’t lost their jobs because of the pandemic. With everyone spending more time at home, it gives them more time to shop around for a new gig – whether they have a job or not. We published a great study last week about modern-day job-seeking and the findings were fascinating. Indeed.com is almost twice as popular as LinkedIn for seekers. But good old-fashioned personal networking is 3X more popular than either of them. A full 1 in 3 working Americans have contemplated a career change since the beginning of COVID. Quarantine gives you lots of time to reflect.
In related news, people are learning how to be more productive working from home, even if it’s getting more difficult. On balance, Americans are finding it more challenging to work from home now that kids are back to school. But they’ve also gotten better at doing their jobs remotely thanks to all the practice. Even parents.
Believe it or not, people are regaining their trust in the media, just not all media. This topic deserves way more attention than I’ll give it here but I was blown away by this data we uncovered this week. The percentage of U.S. adults who say they don’t trust any news sources has fallen by over 20% since last year. What that means is people are getting better (or at least think they are) at finding trustworthy sources in the noise. Notably, broadcast news networks have shown the most positive gains. Local outlets haven’t fared as well. I’ll be thinking a ton about all of this.
Holiday retail is going to get a significant boost from the launch of the newest gaming consoles. Before I write to you again, the new PlayStation and Xbox platforms will both hit stores. While the PlayStation 5 appears slightly more popular than the Xbox Series X, the difference is a rounding error. One in ten say they plan to purchase one (or both) of the consoles for themselves or as a gift. And that doesn’t even include the digital iterations of the platforms. Fortnite is by far the most anticipated game for Xbox. But there’s a Spiderman game coming out on the PS5 that looks even bigger. Gamers rejoice!
Since I didn’t cover any research topics last week, we have a backlog of killer studies to share:
- We did a study before Halloween about the scariest financial situations – job loss is #1 but an unexpected household expense is a close #2;
- We looked at the slow emergence of Instagram Reels as a TikTok knock-off, also TikTok knock-off is fun to say;
- Amazon is the most popular place to buy outerwear as winter nears but competition at the brand level is fierce, with Gen Z ushering new brands into the fray;
- If you’re not paying attention to the explosion of Roblox among American kids, you are missing a huge trend;
- A growing number of people are fearing the impact of tariffs on their household expenses, but they could just be afraid of everything right now;
- Younger people have shown an increased penchant for non-invasive cosmetic treatments as the pandemic wears on;
- Over half of Gen Z watches YouTube. Every. Single. Day;
- Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and ACA is here. We looked at the profile of likely enrollees and how television advertising is still the best way to reach them;
- The recent surge of COVID cases doesn’t seem to be deterring people from Thanksgiving travel or dining out;
- 47% of Americans use some kind of sleep aid and, among those, Tylenol PM is the top OTC solution, with white noise as the top non-chemical solution;
- While telehealth is still rocking, it’s not translating to the virtual eye exam category.
And here are the top questions from the past couple weeks:
- In your opinion, what has been the best relatively recent decade for music?
- If you had to pick, which area of a typical restaurant’s in-house labor force would you be *most* likely to enjoy working in?
- Of the following movie performances, who played the best American president at the box office?
- How frequently do you clear your internet browser’s cache?
- Do you have a finished basement in your home?
Answer Key: 90s, Bar staff, Bill Pullman, Um–never, Yep
Hoping you’re well.