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Reply #23: Well, I'm glad you liked it [View All]

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Febble Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-17-05 02:07 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Well, I'm glad you liked it
I'm a behavioural scientist after all.

And behaviour is what is being measured here. Moreover, because we are not analysing the results of an experiment (no random assignment to a manipulated variable) we cannot infer causality. Our only clues to causality lie in what we know about behaviour.

Regarding release of data: the data is released. The analyses that can be done on the data are limited because it really is the "raw" data. But it certainly it tells us what was actually collected - every response is logged. Anyone can download it and check the numbers. What is not there are precinct identifiers, as you know. But you can check both the raw responses and the final weights (they are given).

This is because of the confidentiality issues you mention. And yes, there are ways it could be made available without compromising confidentiality, as we know, as it was done for Ohio. However, it is not just a matter of "releasing" it - to prepare "blurred" data that is usable for statistical analysis is an intricate process - and therefore takes money. Raising money for further blurred data sets to be prepared might be worth doing, and I would certainly support such a venture.

Regarding your photograph analogy: I think there is a somewhat ironic flaw. The "photograph" was NOT taken without permission - people were free to respond or refuse the poll. Those that responded did so on the understanding that the information would be treated in confidence - as all survey data is. It is precisely because the exit poll responders responded on the understanding that their response would be kept secret that the ethical guidelines do not permit simple "release".

I agree that in your lousy electoral system the only audit you have is the exit poll, and it is therefore of great public importance. But it is still a lousy auditing tool, and frankly, even paper audits are lousy if people like Kenneth Blackwell prevent a legitimate recount. So you not only need an auditable voting system, you need a some kind of mandatory audit, as Bill Bored and others have been discussing.

The sad thing to me, as a Brit, is that we have exit polls, and no-one takes them seriously. They are essentially entertainment. And the reason we regard them as entertainment is that no-one in the UK doubts the veracity of the count. So if the exit polls are off, it's a hoot. And yes, they are recalibrated when the first results come in (much faster than yours, despite the hand counting), and watching the "Swingometer" veer wildly when the first correction is made is one of the highlights of election night. So we know exit polls can be off. (They were, tragically, in 1992, when we thought Neil Kinnock had won, and John Major ended up with a majority of 23. November 2004 was like re-living that nightmare.)

And I understand that you guys HAVE to take them seriously, because you can't rely on your count. Dammit, it was why I got involved in the first place, and why I have spent the last year trying to figure out what went wrong. But I can't share the confidence of some on DU that exit polls are anything other than a very blunt instrument with which to dissect an election. Any measure of human behaviour is fraught with error that has nothing to do with the kind of error you get in nice mathematical binomial models. And one of the sources of error is they way people report their own behaviour.
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