Michael B. Weissman, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Santa Fe Institute (SFI) presents ‘From Fourier To Forensics’ with Michael B. Weissman, at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 at Noyce Conference Room in Santa Fe.
Abstract: Although the statistical and systematic problems of public opinion polls are fairly widely recognized, we tend to assume that published polling results reflect some sort of actual poll.
In 2009, a prominent blog suggested that the pollster Strategic Vision might be fabricating data, based in part on surprising deviations from uniformity of the distribution of trailing digits of the results. Objections were raised to the assumed uniform distribution, but we were able to use Fourier analysis together with known polling statistics to show that the results were weird even if that assumption were dropped.
In 2010, we were contacted by a political consultant who had noticed anomalies in Research 2000 poll reports. Using a variety of elementary statistical techniques, we showed that those results could not have accurately represented real polls. Unfortunately, we do not know if there are other bogus pollsters, disguising results via a random binary generator (cost $0.01).