Dateline: November 1, 2012. Ramada Plaza, I-95, Albany, NY . . . home of the world’s slowest Internet . . . but halfway to Cleveland. There is a good deal of time to think on my drive, and one thing that occasionally pops into my passive brain is polling. This is not an especially enlightening internal discourse, but polls are in the news a lot these days, and everybody this side of George Gallup seems as confused about them as I am.
Polling has become a sophisticated science, driven by complicated mathematical formulas that make possible statistically significant results from a tiny sampling. And while everybody has a story about how wrong polls have been (DEWEY WINS), they seem to be predictive most of the time.
But other than that this election will be close, the current glut of polls seems unable to predict much of anything, including what their numbers will look like tomorrow. While the change is small each time (partly because polls use such small samples), it seems real – and very confusing. Do some people change their minds every day? Are the polls finding the rare voters who remain undecided?
I don’t know who will win this election, and I’m pretty sure my vote won’t be the deciding one. So why bother? And why go to Cleveland? If I stayed home, it would mean one fewer vote out of millions and a handful of Ohioans who won’t go to the polls. Peanuts.
I can’t explain it, really, but I believe the efforts of each of us are part of something larger and that somehow they make all the difference.