Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Change Agent

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Change Agent

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Change agent


An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published Nov. 9:

As Don Henley sings, everything can change in a New York minute.

November in review: Prince George residents outside in T-shirts, Chicago Cubs win the World Series, a man who has never served in the military and never held public office in his life is the president-elect of the United States and soon to be commander-in-chief of the largest military in the world.

Donald Trump's victory was a shock to the pollsters and pundits, the professionals paid to gauge public sentiment, but not much of a surprise to many people who relied on more anecdotal evidence from recent trips south and chats with American friends.

As the man himself would say, this win is YUGE but local residents have seen this movie before.

Remember the 2013 provincial election, when Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals were finished and the polls said an NDP majority under Adrian Dix was inevitable? Clark's victory was called an upset, even though many people outside of Vancouver and Victoria weren't too amazed by the extent of the Liberal victory.

Outside of New York and Washington, the same view seems evident.

Meanwhile, it's another rough hangover for the polling industry.

"Juuuussst a bit outside," as the radio play-by-play man said when Charlie Sheen's first pitch in Major League missed so bad it rolls all the way to the backstop.

In the aftermath, the pollsters are still talking about statistical modelling and sampling error, as if a few little tweaks will fix their mistakes. Like economists, they have constructed elegant mathematical formulas to explain logical human behaviour on a global scale, refusing to recognize what psychologists have always known. People are not always rational, they are terrible at making choices for their long-term benefit and they can easily find ways to justify contradictory beliefs.

And people across the political spectrum now routinely and deliberately mislead pollsters.

Furthermore, both pollsters and pundits (present company included) too often justify their analysis with identity politics and historical trends.

People are dumped into categories - male, female, white, black, Christian, Muslim, urban, rural, rich, poor - to assemble a sample population to measure and to identify trends. …

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