Does anyone know who’s winning?!

Category: Blog

New Vegas odds love the American League, Eye on Baseball, CBS Sports, October 13, 2012.

Politics Now: Post-debate polling shows substantial Romney bounce, Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2012

These two headlines are just two of thousands flooding the news with numbers predicting the future. On Sunday, October 14, the Las Vegas odds on favorites (based on how much money was being placed on which team) to win the World Series were two teams — the New York Yankees (5-2) and the Detroit Tigers (5-2). But since the Yankees and Tigers were playing each other in the American League Championship Series, it was clear that, at least in baseball, being favored to win is not the same as winning.

Do the political pollsters know anything more about who is going to win the Presidential election on November 6, 2012?

Ask students what story they could have told about the election based on the following headlines—on the basis of what they already know, the headline, and the date and then the first paragraph of each article.

Obama’s Popularity Dips Underwater; For Romney, a Faint Favorability Bounce, September 4, 2012

Suspicion of poll, jobs numbers takes hold on right, NBC News, October 6, 2012

Debate Changes Little In Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News Swing State Poll Finds, Quinnipiac University, October 11, 2012

After students share the ways in which they put together the last several months of the presidential campaign, use excerpts from the following articles to discuss the validity of political polling.

Presidential polls: Politics, like Major League Baseball, is numbers-driven, Christian Science Monitor, October 12, 2012.

Why polls vary: things that skew results, San Francisco Chronicle, September 23, 2012

Ask students what they would want to know about a poll before deciding how much to trust its findings. Based on what they have read, their list of questions should include:
• Who was polled? Registered voters or likely voters?
• When was the poll conducted?
• What methods were used?
• How were the questions worded?
• Did they poll cell phones or landlines? In what proportion?
• How many people were polled?
• How accurate was this same poll 4 years ago? 2008 US Presidential Election Pollster Ratings

Students might wonder if these scientific methods for predicting the election results are more accurate than the odds-making used in sports — that is, more accurate than knowing how much money people would be willing to bet on which outcome.

Consider showing them this article and ask them what more they would need to know to understand whether or not this means that they can forget the polls and just go with what the odds makers say about the election?

So, What Do the Political Odds Markets Say About the Election? Atlantic Monthly, September 13, 2012

Posted by Maureen Grolnick

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