1130: Poll Watching

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Poll Watching
The choices we make Tuesday could have MASSIVE and PERMANENT effects on the charts on Nate Silver's blog!
Title text: The choices we make Tuesday could have MASSIVE and PERMANENT effects on the charts on Nate Silver's blog!


This is a comic about the 2012 U.S. presidential election, as it was posted the day before the election on November 6, 2012 ("this Tuesday"). It is the third comic on the subject, the previous two being 1122: Electoral Precedent and 1127: Congress. And the next comic 1131: Math continues the issue raised in this one. In the comic, Cueball is glued to his laptop reading media coverage of the election. The offscreen character remarks that Cueball should take a break, suggesting that Cueball has been reading media coverage for quite a while.

Cueball is so caught up in media coverage that he is speculating on the effect that incumbent President Obama winning the election (and the resulting news coverage) could have on challenger Mitt Romney's campaign. The joke is that the end-goal of Romney's campaign is to win the election. If Obama wins, the campaigning is already over, regardless of media coverage. Cueball is simply so invested that he overanalyzes potential scenarios and fails to see the big picture.

Specifically, he has become so concerned with following the polls that he's lost sight of their purpose as a predictive tool. After the election is over, polling becomes trivial since the result they are intended to forecast is already known (and so in reality will not be conducted at all). This is possibly intended as a rebuke to those pundits (talking heads) who seemingly care more about (or whose jobs are contingent on caring more about) the "game" of analyzing and predicting the politics of the race rather than caring about the actual policies the candidates are likely to pursue after coming into office. Polls and pundits are also referenced in the next comic, 1131: Math, published the day after the election.

The title text repeats this theme with Nate Silver, an American statistician, psephologist, and writer (among other things). He had a political blog called FiveThirtyEight which was originally written under a pseudonym. The Blog and its associated website primarily discuss tracking polls in respect to elections. Thus, the choices made on Tuesday (election day) will have massive and permanent effects on FiveThirtyEight's charts, which will obviously change to reflect the actual votes cast — but all the charts will have become trivial since the purpose of the blog is to predict the results. This is a parody of the bold statements often made during campaigns, such as that the choices made on election day could have massive and permanent effects on such things as your health care, the economy, your job, etc.


[Cueball kneels on his desk chair, hunched over a laptop]
Cueball: This Tuesday will be huge!
Cueball: If Obama wins the election, it could generate news coverage devastating to Romney's position in the tracking polls!
Offscreen character: ... Maybe you should take a break.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


The "failing to see big picture" probably parodies someone too. -- Hkmaly (talk) 08:49, 7 November 2012 (UTC)

Hope I'm doing this right - anyway, maybe I'm misreading this entry, but I think the whole point of this comic is that he has his cause and effect priorities completely reversed - he's more concerned about how the outcome of the election will affect the tracking polls and that entire process rather than, as with most people, merely using tracking polls to predict the election results. -- Greg

You're quite right, and I'll add a paragraph to that effect. - jerodast (talk) 15:35, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

Ironically, in 2016, the Tuesday results did not actually affect the FiveThirtyEight forecast - it still shows up as 71.4% Clinton today. -- 08:46, 11 November 2016 (UTC)

...Then there was the 2020 US election, rendering this comic more prophetic and disturbing than it should be... 00:58, 6 January 2021 (UTC)