Even though we are over a year away from the next Presidential election, presidential candidates have been campaigning tirelessly to secure their party nomination. The general media has been following each candidate and providing snippets of political drama in the campaign trail.

While some might find the mainstream political drama entertaining and even perhaps useful for determining which candidates to endorse in the upcoming state primaries, the debate about policy seems to be quite absent in the general press coverage.

To be fair, policy debate does not bring the same level of excitement compared to cheap political drama coverage, and the news media’s primary focus is ratings. If cheap, short-lived political drama brings in consistent levels of high viewership, then deep policy analysis is postponed until the last minute before the elections.

Polls are great utility for the campaigns and the media to gauge the current aggregate public opinion on a variety of topics. In the election coverage, polls provide a way for the campaigns to legitimize their candidates (if their candidates are high in the polls) while belittle their opponents. Polls are also an effective high ratings item for the media, because people are always curious about what other people think about the election.

For the campaigns, polls are useful even if the candidates are trailing poorly, because it allows even the worst campaigns to use the polls as a signal to change campaign strategies in order to meet the demand of the public. The usefulness of polls for the voting public, however, seems to be questionable.

In a democracy, founded by principles from the Enlightenment era, elections are important mechanisms to check whether the policy preferences of the elected government reflect the policy preferences of the general population. Without elections, a nation can transform into a state in which the will of the people is not reflected upon the action of the government.

From a purely philosophical perspective, the usefulness of national, aggregate polls in determining whether a given politician reflects the best political preference profile to a given voter is dubious. There is hardly any information that is useful in knowing the aggregate attitude of a given politician in determining whether such politician best reflects the individual’s political preference profile, unless such profile includes aggregate poll data.

But does aggregate poll data tell us any information on any political policy information about the candidates? Poll data only shows the popularity, not even specifically from a political perspective, of the given candidates in the face of hypothetical national voters. Poll data only shows the attitudes of the sampled masses but not the actual political positions of the candidates.

Even if we expand our thinking to the practical scenario, polls tell us nothing about the candidates themselves. Why should we care what other people think when we are determining whether a given candidate reflects the best political thinking to our own? At best, polls muddy our thinking by tempting us to follow the rest of the crowd like sheep regardless of what the actual facts are. Polls are fascinating tools to gauge national attitudes of the candidates, but they are again useless in determining whether the candidates reflect our political values and policy preferences.

That is not to say that looking at non-aggregate data is useless. It is quite useful to have a discussion with a friend or other people about the election by learning why individual people like certain candidates. These are learning opportunities to see whether the voter missed certain facts or certain political analysis in their thinking. Aggregate poll data strips all the context of this useful train of thought, and thus national polls only provide more political drama and heat without helping us to carefully, rationally choose our best candidates when the election comes.


This is my writing depository containing analysis and opinion on current events. Online since 2004, DS NETS continues to strive to contribute to the general online discussion on the ongoing political, societal, and cultural events around the world and at home.

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