The Extraordinary Delusions of the 2012 Election

… There are two striking things to observe about this moment. The first is how good a job professional pollsters did, and the second is how robust the social consensus was on the right that Romney was going to win. …

What is important is how well pollsters did in the face of increased obstacles to doing a good job: response rates to surveys have plummeted, and increasing numbers of individuals rely exclusively on (hard to reach) mobile phones. Despite these challenges, in aggregate surveys are more accurate than ever, almost spot on in 2012.

How is this possible? This is worth far more reflection than a blog entry can offer, because not all communities face challenges like these so effectively. How does this community channel inherently flawed human judgments in a fashion that they are, on average, right? There are surely lessons to be learned about the construction of knowledge and professional practices in a way that has turned out to be quite functional collectively. Here I will simply speculate that it reflects three things. [cont.]

David Lazer, Complexity and Social Networks Blog, Harvard