Polls, Math, and Reality

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Polls are good, right? They “tell us” information about trends and likes, dislikes and favorites. I have never been polled. I never have check marked a poll online, either. In the back of my head one thought always came up, “control.” How do they control these things? How does a sampling of 1000 or 1500 tell me what “Americans” think or believe? For example, this morning I woke up and saw a poll concerning the Impeachment Hearings for Former President Donald Trump. The headline reporting this poll said, ‘Majority of Americans Think Trump Should Be Impeached.’ They do? 52% said “yes.” In fact, all these polls are saying this. One poll had 56%. Another had those who voted for Trump in a slight increase to now impeach him. All of this is came out now (Monday), just a day before the trial starts. The message is clear from the Media outlets and their polls: Americans greatly want Trump impeached.

Now, listen to this quote, “The numbers from that poll cannot be explained purely in partisan terms. As CNN’s Harry Enten pointed out in a recent analysis, “at no point last year in the polling between Trump and now-President Joe Biden did Biden ever earn anywhere close to 56% in the national average.”

“This means that there are likely millions of Americans who voted for Trump last year who now want him barred from holding federal office,” Enten added. Note the jump in numbers.

Interesting, right? CNN is telling us this. Now, this article clicks to another site where I am told that Biden won the Election by 51.3% of the vote. That is, according to the official number, Biden won 81,281,502 votes. Even though Biden said 74,000,000 in his incoherent Inaugural “speech”. I have heard that number repeated a few times. Trump’s official numbers: 74,222,593 votes. Most outlets didn’t catch Biden’s gaffe. I did. So, Biden won by 51.3 percent and Trump lost by 46.9 percent. The difference between these numbers is 7,058,909 souls. So, the math is right on percentages. A total of 155,504,095 votes in all. The most recent survey of how many Americans there are 330,076, 916 (census.gov). 174,000,000 didn’t vote. Figure in those under 18, several other factors, and we can safely say that tens of millions of Americans who could vote, didn’t vote. Regardless, this was the largest election in American history. Polls are “random samplings”. 300,000,000 Americans were not polled. 1,500 were. From that number, taken from other samplings, a means derived that represents Americans – everyone of them.

However, I went back to the polls that were being conducted by these same sources. I went back to the month of October, just before the November elections. For example, most polls had Biden winning Florida, some by three or four percent, taken November 2nd. All the polls had Biden and Trump razor thin in Florida. But, as we know, Trump beat Biden winning 51.2% over Biden’s 47.9%. No poll showed that prior to the election. The polls were off. But, that’s just one state.

Let’s take Pennsylvania. According to the polls Biden was ahead. There was one poll, Trafalgar, that had Trump ahead. However, Biden’s lead in these polls were huge: 3-7 percent. The official numbers of the Election: Biden won by a margin of 1.2 percent. If you were on a construction site and were off by that much, you’d be fired.

I’ll do one more State: Georgia. The official number gave Biden a win of just .24%. Biden barely won Georgia. However, according to all the polls taken on November 2nd, Trump was ahead by 4 or 5% consistently.

Hell, I’ll do one more poll just for fun. Michigan. All the polls had Biden by huge margins. Huge. Result: Biden won 49.45%. Trump had 48.82%. Pre-Election polling, however, predicted Biden at 53% and Trump at 44% (all source number from <uselectionatlas.org>). Polls were way off.

Now, I am not writing this to show anything “weird” with numbers when it comes to this train wreck of an election. What I am doing is showing that “polls” are not always good indicators of what “America” thinks; That numbers can be manipulated. You all know this already and I am writing nothing new. We have seen this with Corona Virus numbers, mask numbers, whatever.

Most folks should be familiar with Simpson’s Paradox, named so by Ed Simpson, a mathematician who earned degrees a Queen’s College and Cambridge (he’s smarter than you and me, I guess). Anyhow, in 1951 he wrote his now famous paper that showed that….you know what, I am not a mathematician. Here’s a graph I took from Wikipedia:

There, got it? However, in my library – the Hunter and Jacob Frost Library of Eclectic Interests – I do have a few books on Mathematics. I never liked math. Logic, yes. Math, hated it. Of course, there are fallacies of all sorts, like Prosecutor’s Fallacy, or of course the problem of Majoritarianism; don’t you know the majority is always right? Consensus is never misleading…..

Truth doesn’t come by numbers. One mathematician, who didn’t like the idea that “numbers” were “real” in some abstract form, or in some sense metaphysical, stated that they were intuitions. Math is nothing more than human thought (intuitions), so said L.E.J. Brouwer (Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra, Derbyshire, John; Joseph Henry Press, 2006, pp.285-ff.). Of course this idea riled other nerds. If numbers are not real…(as an aside, Derbyshire mentions the mathematician Francois Viete (b. 1540), who served under Charles during the St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre (1572), when the French Calvinists and Catholics were really going at it – but he skips over Viete’s secretary, Nathaniel Torporley, a clergyman and brilliant mathematician).

Consider the statement, “that which, being added to another, does not make it greater, and being taken away from another, does not make it less, is nothing” (A Concise History of Mathematics, Struik, Drik J.; Dover, 1987, p. 125, quoting Zeno). Numbers don’t exist. How did we get here? Oh, right, the elections and the use and manipulations of numbers. Yes, so, numbers are good and they help us type things on keyboards and send messages to each other. However, I am not so sure that polls mean anything. I believe, for example, that a man named Jesus literally walked on water, and that God way back when literally created a human being as breathed in “dust from the ground” within a few seconds. Mind blowing. What do the “polls” say about that?

Polls never really meant a whole lot to me. We all know of the 2016 Election fiasco (Hillary has nightmares to this day). Second, Trump’s number’s did improve – against the polls. They don’t like to harp on that point. Polls and numbers, like math, can be manipulated into all sorts of things. I don’t wish to convey the idea that such things do not have practical value – it’s good to know the measurement of a toilet top-tank is in relation to the distance from the wall behind it when you are thinking of getting a new John. But, I have also seen that measurement as dead sure accurate, only to have to make another trip to the hardware store because that measurement, which you were so darn sure about – wrote it down, checked it again- was off…by a lot. It happens.

Now, one can read the “problem of measurement” in A. K. Dewdney’s book, Beyond Reason: 8 Great Problems that Reveal the Limits of Science (Wiley and Sons, 2004, pp. 79-ff.). Schrodinger’s famous cat, the von Neumann chain, and Hugh Everett III’s idea that “the universe splits into as many copies as there are outcomes” (81) so that every measurement is “correct” in at least one of them, are a few issues. But, who has time for that? For those who might be shocked (because they never heard of such a thing in Public School), Nancy Pearcey demonstrates that without Christianity, applied mathematics would not be where it is at, well, where it was, because today mathematics is not real. “The dominant philosophy of mathematics treats it as a social construction” (Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, Crossway, 2004, p. 43). Remember that fellow I mentioned above, L.E. J. Brouwer? Well, his “intuitionism” jettisoned the idea that math was “out there” and real. Math is something constructed from intuition. Just because a system is free of contradiction does not prove the system is correct, thus one ends up in a vicious circle, always. The Vienna Circle (man, how far do I want to get into this?) with Russell and Carnap opposed this idea and attempted to deduce mathematics apart from metaphysics (think, A.J. Ayer here). They wanted to build a system wherein all truth statements could be proven true, or false in reality. It failed, of course, and no one follows Bertrand Russell anymore (although he is still greatly admired, rightly so). See, for Plato, the laws of the universe were governed by fixed Laws (capital L) of the Good; all that one had to do to “unlock” the universe was know math and reason. Voila! Modernism is born. But, see, Brouwer didn’t like that idea, and neither do a lot of other post modern mathematicians.

I digress. Polls. Right. Who cares? We are living today in what I have been calling an Info-demic (I didn’t originate that term). An Infodemic is the phenomena of several sources of information, several sources of credible information. Let me qualify that again: several conflicting sources of credible information. You quote your scholars, I’ll quote mine. There is still this idea out there that if “the most people” believe (believe?) something, then it must be “true.” But, this is false. Truth is not a democracy. It isn’t formed democratically. It is, or it isn’t and it makes no difference who or how many perceive it (if “it” even “exists”). What we are witnessing today is Postmodernism/Relativism attempting to be spliced with good, old fashioned, White, European, racist Modernism (Aristotle – a white dude). See, on one hand, the anti-anything male and white crowd wants to proclaim relativism and queer theory that rids the world of the idea of Truth and Absolute. However, on the other hand, they like polls (statistics is a European thang). See, Pearcey quotes from a middle-school curriculum text book that says, “mathematics is man-made, that it is arbitrary” (Pearcey, op. cit., 43, citing Getting to Know, Teacher’s Guide, 1996). Yet, on the other hand, the Bible can be “proven” false by “archeology” (a white man’s European claim rooted in British Empiricism). In other words, they want to “pick and choose” their facts when it suits them (relativism), but still call them, “facts” (White, Christian Modernism). Get it?

Anyhow, I have rambled enough. The Impeachment Trial I watched today was a sham. The Democrats quoted a lot of dead, white guys like Hamilton, Lincoln, Adams and Jefferson (all racists, all white, and slave owners, except Lincoln, who promised that Blacks would never be elected to any office under his watch). However, when a Christian quotes these guys to find “historical context” for their words (Originalist Argument), he’s racist and white. Get it?

Have a good evening.