Roper Rebound Effect

The Roper Rebound Effect

The people of New Hampshire kicked the media in their laminated teeth on Tuesday. What happened?

You’ve heard the usual excuse: Polls are a snapshot in time. You haven’t heard the corollary: Polls have an instantaneous expiration date; they are stale by the time the results are reported.

Campaigns exacerbate the issue: “Polls are not predictive, except when they favor my candidate.”

Um, excuse me, but don’t these poll thingies involve questioning a bunch of real people?

In 21st century America:

1. Polls use land-line phones when many people have only cell phones.

2. More people refuse to participate – polls are so frequent they are a nuisance, not a novelty.

3. People lie.

4. Pollsters do not understand conversational speech. People talk as if they are certain when they are not; they change their minds.

5. People who agree to talk to pollsters are psychologically unrepresentative of the electorate – they do not feel they are too busy to talk to pollsters.

The 24/7 news environment has intensified a very human tendency I would like to call the Roper Rebound Effect, the effect of poll results upon the population being sampled. Real people resent the assumption that they are predictable. This contrarian tendency might be called the “Observer Effect” or “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” by those who don’t really understand physics, so let me summarize the Roper Rebound Effect with this graphic narrative:

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