2357: Polls vs the Street

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Polls vs the Street
Other pollsters complain about declining response rates, but our poll showed that 96% of respondents would be 'somewhat likely' or 'very likely' to agree to answer a series of questions for a survey.
Title text: Other pollsters complain about declining response rates, but our poll showed that 96% of respondents would be 'somewhat likely' or 'very likely' to agree to answer a series of questions for a survey.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by AN APPRECIATIVE CAR. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This comic discusses getting data or opinions through a study (polls) or by getting them anecdotally (on the street). The phrase "voice on the street" is commonly used by news reporters who get opinions on issues by literally asking people walking by what they think, and has been previously mentioned (and derided) in 756: Public Opinion.

Many news organizations conduct polls (or pay polling firms to conduct polls) to assess the opinions of "the public". Many news shows also conduct "man-on-the-street" interviews (more formally known as vox populi, "voice of the people"), to provide a human face of "the public" and engage viewers more. Many pollsters, pundits, and politicians worry about gaps between polls and ground-truth, as in the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" newspaper headline, and so White Hat is here extolling the virtues of interviewing "real people" to get at that ground truth.

His first objection, that polls suggest "candidate X" is more favored, while the people on the street that White Hat interviews are more supportive of "candidate Y", sounds reasonable enough. (Based on when this comic was released, it may refer to the upcoming 2020 American general elections.) In fact, it is already a topic of concern by pollsters, known variously as the "Bradley effect" or "shy Tory factor", where some people will publicly profess one preference to a pollster but then vote some other way on the ballot. However, it quickly becomes clear that White Hat's methodology is riven by its own biases. It seems that he is literally just talking to people on the streets of his own town (where it's logistically impossible for the majority of people to live or visit; see What If? #8), and furthermore is conducting his conversations literally within the street itself, flouting traffic laws, rather than on sidewalks (perhaps a reference to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak). It is true that he's getting "ground truth", but it's also true that he's only sampling a very small (and highly idiosyncratic) part of the whole population.

The final panel illustrates survivorship bias. Playing in traffic is understood to be a dangerous activity; White Hat isn't meeting people who partake in it because they're dead. It could also be that White Hat is doing his street poll on the road, in which case the individuals who would have answered "no" to the question have already expressed their disapproval of the stunt the in the form of not taking the questionaire.

The title text is a joke about selection bias and tautology. People who don't feel like taking surveys wouldn't get as far as answering a survey question about survey questions.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
White Hat: Polls are just numbers.
White Hat: You have to talk to people on the street.
White Hat: Polls say most people support <Candidate X>.
White Hat: But the people I talk to on the street support <Candidate Y>.
White Hat: Polls claim most people don't live in my town and have never been here.
White Hat: But the people I meet on the street tell a very different story.
White Hat: According to polls, most people don't like playing in traffic.
White Hat: So why do I never seem to meet these people on the street?

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Love the title text! Fwacer (talk) 23:56, 9 September 2020 (UTC)

I Edit Conflicted with someone (2 minutes too late, after quite a bit of typing, then half a dozen Captcha submissions - just two to put this text in). If anyone wants to review my attempt, I'm HTML-commenting it in this gap... ...I already knew I'd have to Wikilink some bits, and can see at least one typo. Maybe I'll integrate some into what's there now, myself but probably not tonight. 00:39, 10 September 2020 (UTC)

(Self-reply) Looking into it, I must have been editing for a whole hour, actually. Didn't feel like it, but given there wasn't even a transcript when I started (but the BOT had been replaced) I must have been. And I want paying for all the Captcha responses I'm asked for. It seems I'm either being 'a useful idiot' for slavishly helping the Algorithm, or I am far better(/worse?) at identifying traffic lights, crosswalks, motorbikes, traffic and bicycles than "the man on the street" that pre-populated the Captcha knowledgebase thresholds... 00:54, 10 September 2020 (UTC)
I swear half of the answers were wrong in the first place. One time I took a capatcha and it misidentified a mailbox as a parking meter and I had to answer wrong on purpose to get through.
One that I didn't get a 'by' on (I'm convinced that being correct just gives you another test in order to generate that result with more authority) was a request for "bicycle" that featured a surface-painted bike-lane symhol. I said "skip" as there was no actual bike (like features that clearly look cross-walkish but aren't even on the road, or horizontal). So unless most other people had a more generous/playful citeria, I should have been correct. And I'm a whiz at identifying hydrants (in my mind?) Of all kinds of colours, but I think there must be far too many opposing opinions. (Traffic Lights: Do you just highlight the lit bits? The composite frames upon which all the lights sit? The whole lot including the support poles/cables? And do you choose frames that have a sneaky tiny bit of overlap of your chosen feature, but are otherwise mostly empty? Or exclude squares that have a slice that wouldn't be recognised as such if given in isolation?) 13:04, 10 September 2020 (UTC)
Select everything containing a part you would expect to receive if you ordered it fully assembled from amazon. Full frame, but cables not included. All of the car. All the nuts on the hydrants. All the lines on the crosswalk. Mailbox includes the stick in the ground, but not the wall of the house when mounted on one. If it takes a second glance to tell it isn't what it asked for, then select it anyways. normies don't have time to double check their answer when trying to post their lols on cat videos. 13:59, 11 September 2020 (UTC)

Well, sounds like what I do with edge-cases (except I do check carefully, so that I'm right, no matter what), but if other people are being sloppy, I'll have to he careful to be sloppy, eh? ;) 01:10, 12 September 2020 (UTC)

Reminiscent of this beautifully snarkastic tweet. https://twitter.com/DavidLJarman/status/1302719537234599936 03:27, 10 September 2020 (UTC)

It seems to me that it is morally indefensible to tell the truth to pollsters. And also to people doing a Vox Populi. If you believe one party is better for the people in your country, then you have a moral duty not to sabotage them. But if everyone tells the pollsters honestly that they are definitely going to vote for party X, you could have everyone believing that it's a foregone conclusion that party X will win, so they don't bother to go out in the rain to vote, and party Y gets in - because they thought their party needed their vote. 21:45, 12 October 2020 (UTC)

In England the word on the Street is most often SLOW (in Wales it's is ARAF SLOW) :-D RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 18:56, 11 September 2020 (UTC)

Or BUS / BWS STOP 09:53, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
And in some parts of Canada, it's SLOW LENT, even when it's nowhere near Easter.Jkshapiro (talk) 01:54, 10 September 2021 (UTC)