THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION HAS EXPOSED THE WEAKNESS OF POLLING

By Christopher Burke, CEO of Brickendon

“This complete error by the pollsters – the second time in five months – shows the weakness of polling as a means of prediction. Representative samples fail when the voter groups are new and not representative of the turnout in previous years. Voter responses to polls can no longer be taken at face value and opinions may change in the privacy of the voter booth.

“The tools for correct prediction exist and are the subject of much investment in financial services. Mining and combining unstructured data sets is the essence of Data Science. Why ask someone’s opinion directly when their web presence will give a much more nuanced view of their political state of mind? Correct collation and analysis of the data would remove much of the guesswork from predictions.

“The Brexit pollsters failed to take into account the fanatical vote of those people who felt lost, demoralised and saw the ‘leave’ option as an anti-establishment protest. Similarly, Clinton was seen to be an extension of the current establishment and therefore a vote against her was a backlash to the current situation where many American’s feel they are not listened to or adequately represented. In both situations there was an element of voting against the status quo.

“So why do we still rely on polls? The data sets exist and are largely in the public domain. Use of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) techniques and machine learning could give a much more accurate picture. In a race where the candidate with the smallest campaign investment won the day, pollsters and Democrats alike need to wake up to the use and interpretation of fifth estate data sets.

“We live in an age of misinformation and great data. Trump knows how to use it. Financial services know how to use it. Time for pollsters to up their game.”