Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
By Act V of his play, poor Macbeth is having a tough time finding meaning in life. Three weeks away from the presidential election, we here at Urtak, keen observers of all things psephological, are starting to feel the same way about the opinion polls. Why is it that so much information yields so little real insight?
The fact that the research consumed by so many is produced by so few leads to an overexposure of certain perspectives. This in turn leads to diminishing returns in terms of new learning. For example, while Quinnipiac and Marist are fine institutions, it does seem limiting that their polling programs should be so dominant in the national discourse. Even for Harvard and Yale, such lofty perches would be unjustified in other domains.
Broadening access to the creation and exchange of opinion information is fundamental to Urtak, and we do it in a simple way, by allowing anyone who is asked a question to respond with a question of their own.
When our method is used by someone who has earned a large audience, like our much-admired Andrew Sullivan, the results can be spectacular.
Over the course of the past several hours, more than seven thousand people have used Urtak to share their questions and answers about last night’s presidential debates on The Dish blog. As usual, a trove of fascinating facts has been created.
After the first debate, 82% of respondents thought that Romney had won the debate. Today, an astonishing 98% thought that Obama had won the second. 98% is simply colossal. It is nearly impossible to get any group of any size to be that united about anything. 98% is the percentage of people who like ice cream, sunny days, and babies’ smiles. It’s the percentage of the vote that Saddam Hussein used to win in Iraqi presidential elections. A total reversal.
That’s definitely good news for President Obama, and good news for the heavily Democratic-leaning Dish readers, 74% of whom declare themselves to be “bloody elated.” However, while another 98% declared themselves pleased with the outcome, just 47% of those people were willing to forgive Sullivan his trespass of two weeks ago, and call his response to the disaster of the first debate “appropriate.” And of those who did not find the response appropriate, a huffy 39% stopped reading the blog entirely! But just how that group of people who abandoned the Dish happened across today’s Urtak must forever remain a mystery…
Urtak results are always publicly available, so you can browse, search, sort, and even cross-tabulate right here: https://urtak.com/u/55228/. If you’re too busy, here are five of our favorite cross-tabs from The Dish’s Town-Hall Debate Results Urtak, which generated more than 270,000 responses to 67 questions.
92% thought that there should have been a question about marriage equality. Of that 92%, 51% would have liked to see a question about marijuana legalization. Of the 8% against the marriage equality question, just 22% wanted to see a question about the benign bud. Tolerance breeds tolerance.
People who think the Benghazi attack will hurt Obama’s chances are more likely to call for Andrew Sullivan to shave his beard if Obama wins the third debate.
People who refreshed the live-blog were more likely to have their nerves shot.
New Yorkers were less likely to want Obama to ask Romney for his long-form tax returns.
And if you thought that Romney seemed honest in his answers, you are eight times more likely to have gained understanding of his economic plans over the course of last night’s debate.
Again, full results here.
But our key takeaway is that the internet has let citizens become journalists, broadcasters, and pundits. Will we see the emergence of the citizen-pollster? All it takes is for people to start asking questions.