An insightful exploration of political polling and a bold defence of its crucial role in a modern democracy
After the 2016 and 2020 elections, harsh critiques of polling were blasted everywhere: in news headlines, on social media and among colleagues and friends. But this rush to declare polling irrelevant is misguided—and dangerous. In Strength in Numbers, data journalist G. Elliott Morris urges readers to recognise how polling shapes and sustains democracy. He illuminates how public opinion polls provide a voice for citizens and influence such crucial matters as a party’s selection of presidential candidates.
He guides readers through a vibrant history of polling to provide insider context, explains how polls have been misused and misinterpreted and demonstrates how we have underestimated their potential impact. He also candidly acknowledges where polls have fallen short and charts a path for the industry’s future where it can truly work for the people. Persuasively argued and deeply researched, Strength in Numbers implores all those who believe in democracy not to give up on polls, but to fully understand them.
"Poll-bashing is fashionable, but G. Elliott Morris astutely exposes why they go wrong and how to fix them—to reinvigorate our democracy. The book reads like a suspenseful whodunnit, tragedy and love-story for data. Packed with surprising history, fresh insights and wise reforms, this is a landmark work that everyone who cares about society and politics must read." — Kenneth Cukier, co-author of The New York Times bestseller Big Data
"In this lively story of the struggles and successes of polling from Gallup to the present day, Morris makes a convincing case that the measurement of public opinion is a key component of modern democracy" — Andrew Gelman, Higgins Professor of Statistics, Columbia University