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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - September 2020

How we are using polls the wrong way

Every time we get close to an election, we end up having a discussion about polls.

The question is about whether polls are accurate or not. But that's not necessarily the right question. A more important question might be about how we report about polls.

So, in this article, I'm going to look at two elections, the 2016 Brexit Referendum, and the 2016 US Presidential Election. And I'm going to take you through this from my perspective as a media analyst. What do we as publishers need to look out for, and what do we need to change journalistically?

Polls work really well if we use them right

Before we talk about the two elections, I want to briefly explain how polls are supposed to work, because this will become important later.

I want you to imagine that you are running a five day conference, with a thousand people in attendance. At the end of this conference, you have planned a dinner party for everyone there where you want to serve either burgers or pizza (yes, I know. This is a very fancy dinner party).

Here is the problem. How many burgers and pizzas should you buy?

Well, you can't just buy 500 of each because then many people might not be able to get what they prefer. And you also don't want to buy 1,000 of each because then you will end up with a massive amount left over.

You could ask each of the 1000 people, but that is a lot of people. So instead, you use a poll.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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