Strength in Numbers: How Polls Work and Why We Need Them

Norton. Jul. 2022. 224p. ISBN 9780393866971. $28.95. POL SCI
American journalist Morris, a writer for the Economist, analyzes public opinion polls and pollsters, maintaining that they more reliably report trends, similar to weather forecasts, than provide unassailable predictions. He dissuades readers from dismissing polls and faults researchers for overemphasizing the easily accessible views of highly educated people. The increased use of multi-day voting, when not all citizens react to the same recent events, and the tendency for less enthusiastic constituents to forgo optional balloting further skew surveys’ veracity. Polling persists because it apprises officeholders of popular causes. The horse race nature arguably excites both pundits and the populace. Librarians should note that there are few recent comprehensive print monographs on polling; statistician Nate Silver (The Signal and the Noise) and others usually prefer blogs and websites.
VERDICT This book’s lucid language explains techniques such as manipulative push and unofficial straw polls, while setting the topic in its historical context.
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