I find it easy to explain last night on a visceral level; filled the joyous reek of utter carnage. We crushed our enemies, saw them driven before us, and heard the lamentations of their women! But there are a few actual thoughts that I’ll delve into below.
Deming’s Funnel and why the polls have not measured up for 2 straight election cycles.
William Edwards Deming was one of the most underrated mathematicians that America ever produced. One of his most famous observations on adjustments due to new data is the Deming’s Funnel Experiment. A funnel is used to catch some falling series of objects. The objects fall from slightly different locations with enough variation so that the funnel misses fairly often if it isn’t in the optimal location. If you move the funnel around every time it misses an object, you tend to miss way more often than if you just picked a good spot and only moved it after you tried to catch ten or so objects.
This projects to polling fairly well because pollsters attempt to estimate what the electorate will look like every time they poll an election race. Back in 2010, a bunch of pollsters assumed a 2006-2008 electorate and were surprised by how well the Tea Party performed. In 2012, pollsters that modeled based on a 2010 electorate succeeded in electing President Romney. Last night, pollsters taking only 2012 into account elected Senators Orman, Hagan, and Begich. It’s a good thing mere mortals still have the right to vote.
If RMJ were in charge of polling Alabama, he would take the data from every county since 1960 and map the trends of electorate size, composition and rate of change. The mean size and composition data would dictate the initial funnel position, the first and second derivatives thereof would be used to move the funnel to the spot where I think most of the metaphorical votes would actually drop. I’m not claiming it’s perfect; but it’s a lot more sciency than, say the Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Algorithm. So the polls don’t use enough historical data to educate their models.
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