Pollsters blew it, and they blew it big. Some analysts gave Hillary Clinton an 85% probability of winning the election, but here we sit with Donald Trump as the new President-elect. Any responsible observer must admit that the numbers failed spectacularly. And yet, media organizations will once again inundate the American public with a new cacophony of numbers in the coming days. So, how should Christians
- Numbers can be wrong
Statistics and polls can only tell us certain information. Pollsters and statisticians ask people who, selected at random, a series of questions.They may pose a question in such a way that it elicits a certain. However, by framing the issue differently, the result might be the opposite. Additionally, a poll may inadvertently have a sampling that is not representative of all Americans. While pollsters try to limit these factors, they are not perfect.
We also see polls’ limitations in their inability to paint a comprehensive picture. Even the largest studies with the greatest battery of questions often have a smaller sampling size. With in-depth studies we see greater detail on certain issues, but it may come from a smaller sampling size. If we just acknowledge the imperfection that exists in polls and statistics, we take a crucial step to rightly understanding the numbers.
- Fallible people are involved
Those who collect the data are not perfect, neither are those who provide the numbers. The answers that people give may change day to day, or even hour by hour, depending on the volatility of the issue. Once pollsters gather the raw data, fallible humans set out to make sense of it. One statistician may give one candidate a lead based upon the criteria they believe to be important. Another might come to the opposite conclusion. The hands of flawed human beings mark the entire endeavor. Imperfect people are doing their best to interpret incomplete data. Human fallibility should cause us hesitancy when considering claims made from numbers.
- Polls and numbers alone cannot provide justification
A survey that says that 99% of Americans favor a particular position does not make it morally right or justified. Polls are thermometers. You do not go to your home’s thermostat and read the temperature as an indicator of the ideal temperature of your house. The thermostat merely tells you the temperature in your house. You decide to adjust the thermostat based on your comfort preferences. Similarly, polls and numbers can only give us a general idea about the temperature of the country on a particular issue. It is up to Americans to search somewhere else for justification.
When then should Christians do with the plethora of polls and statistics that media outlets push out on a daily basis? Once we recognize their weaknesses, we must seek to establish a firm foundation upon which to ask. Popular opinion will waver from season to season. We need something upon which to take a stand. Christians find this in the Scripture.
In the Scripture, we have the Word of God. In this, we can place our hope and our confidence. We do not need the latest numbers to tell us where we should stand on an issue. Rather, we need to search the Scripture and see where God has spoken and given us principles by which to act. In the coming years, we will likely find ourselves on the wrong side of a cultural movement. Yet, if we stand where God has told us to stand, we can take heart that where the numbers fail, our God cannot.