I've tried to stay distracted today from the political coverage, since I have had more than I can take of Hillary's smiles and tears. But my cousin Pam called my attention to this article this morning, and it begins by drawing a parallel between the errant NH polls and one of my favorite scientific theories:
I’d like to suggest a public opinion equivalent of the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” – the idea in physics that suggests that the very act of observing certain phenomena can alter those phenomena.
Okay, it’s stretching it a bit to compare Hillary and McCain to sub-atomic particles, but still, I believe that the polling results announced all day Tuesday and most of the day Monday helped to make those polls inaccurate.
Michael Medved goes on to offer his explanation:
I think pollsters and experts were right that most of the independents in New Hampshire (45% of all voters) liked two candidates: Obama and McCain. In the forty-eight hours before the polls closed, they got a consistent message about their two favorites: Obama had his victory in the bag, but McCain was potentially in trouble. Therefore, sophisticated independent voters (who could choose to participate in either the Republican or Democratic contest) reasoned that McCain needed their help but Obama didn’t. Therefore, those who wanted, above all, to make a difference, switched at the last moment to the GOP side, abandoning their previous intention to vote Democratic. That’s why the split of independent voters between those who went with the GOP and those who went with the Democrats wasn’t nearly as one-sidedly Democratic as expected.
Okay, certainly more than plausible. But it's one of hundreds of theories floating around today in a feverish sea of speculation. Here's another reaction to the polling mystery that made it to my desk this morning:
New Hampshire's Polling Fiasco
January 09, 2008 12:05 AM
There will be a serious, critical look at the final pre-election polls in the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire; that is essential. It is simply unprecedented for so many polls to have been so wrong. We need to know why.
Excuse me, but does this make anyone else laugh out loud? Can't you just hear the tone inherent in that last statement, ringing with adolescent self-importance? WHY do we need to know why? Why are the polls so important that we must be able to predict in advance how many tenths of a point will separate the top candidates? But on it will go, the pollsters and the pundits dressing each other in empirical emperor's clothing and half the country paying homage to the naked result.
In my book, if we can ever prove that some political Heisenberg Uncertainty principle is at work in our elections, we should move to ban pre-election polling and send the pollsters to the land of other sub-atomic particles...There. I feel better already.
hat tip: Pam