politics & society | July 29, 2019

The Five Stages of Polling: Lavin Speaker Shachi Kurl Reveals the Best Way to Read the Data

Much like grief, consuming political polling data can be interpreted through five stages, says Shachi Kurl, the Executive Director of The Angus Reid Institute. In her latest op-ed, Kurl breaks down the stages—and reveals how we can digest the data without becoming overwhelmed. 

According to Shachi Kurl’s five stages of polling, it is Stage Three (“Comparison Confusion”) where people begin to grow bewildered by the different pollsters and their disparate findings. In Stage Four (“Pseudo Expertise”) they seek to dispel their confusion by coming up with explanations for the differences, ranging from conspiracy theories to general mischief. All of this leads to Stage Five (“Ennui”). Feeling drained by the excitment, people start asking: what do the polls matter, anyway?


“Matter or not [...] there will always be an impulse to measure and understand what society is thinking. There may be squabbling over what scientific polls say. But without them, we are left with more ham-handed attempts,” explains Kurl. To avoid feeling overwhelmed in the lead-up to the next election, she advises people to do a diagnostic check on the polls they’re reading. What is the sample size of respondents? What questions are being asked? What order are they given in? And was the poll administered face-to-face, or through an online survey or telephone call?


“I also invite you to dig deeper, beyond the top-line findings. In a country increasingly fractured along regional, income, and generational lines, policy issues represent different things to different segments of the electorate,” Kurl says.

You can read the full article here.


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