Polling and path dependency | #202 – July 17, 2022
Thank you all for making pub week for Strength in Numbers a success
I wanted to send my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped make the publication week for my new book a success. Ironically, I do not have any numbers on the performance of Strength in Numbers — it is too early for any sales numbers or rankings, and in any case I wouldn’t know what to compare them to anyway — but I do have some things to share for anyone who has missed out certain events, interviews and etc.
First, I am thankful to everyone who turned out for the launch event with Jamelle Bouie at Politics & Prose, Washington’s best and biggest indie bookshop and coffee house. A recording of the live Q&A has been uploaded here. I also talked to WIRED magazine about whether pollsters have improved their methods ahead of this year’s midterm elections — which you can read (for free, I think) here.
Meanwhile, I had an interesting discussion with a panel of pollsters and political prognosticators hosted by AEI’s Survey Center on American Life. Amy Walter, who was there, wrote a little about the book for the Cook Political Report: link here. I was also a guest on a podcast hosted by the Neoliberal Project, which you can listen to here (fret not, we did not talk about ideology nor neoliberalism).
Next week, the Washington Post will publish an interview with me in Dave Weigel’s newsletter on politics and elections called “The Trailer.” You can sign up to get that in your inbox here. And I will be a guest on Matt Grossmann’s podcast on politics and political science called “The Science of Politics” — I believe the episode will get linked here when it goes up. Lastly, tonight at 8PM eastern, CSPAN will air an interview with me that we taped about two weeks ago. The recording is also available on their website.
It is hard to gauge how successful the launch has been. It is certainly not an overnight best-seller; WW Norton did not sell a million or 100,000 copies of the book, either as pre-orders or last week. Frankly, even 10,000 would surpass my expectations. (But, as I mentioned, I really have no benchmarks.) No blockbuster reviews have yet touted its message or my insights for the industry or democracy. (Those may come later.)
Yet cumulatively, I think the book has been received well. My main points — that people need to understand public opinion polls as products of an uncertain and artful science, and use them as tools not just for predicting elections, but improving democracy — seem to be breaking through. And I have had great fun telling and retelling some of the more entertaining stories from the book: such as those on the first democracies, the first pollsters, the first election forecasters and people inventing the future for the industry. Some of them have even been interesting to others.
As this week comes to a close I am simply happy that everyone can finally hold Strength in Numbers in their hands and read it. All the sales, the positive coverage and nice emails are, of course, a great bonus.
So, thanks to those of you who ordered the book. Thanks to those who engaged with book-related posts at the blog. I am grateful to the people who have left nice reviews online, and those several of you who even blurbed the book jacket. It has all meant a great deal to me and I hope it puts Strength in Numbers on a path toward broader success.
The newsletter will return to its regularly scheduled programming next week. I will talk to you all then,
I enjoyed your book! It provided a good overview of the history of polling which is something I did not know about. I first started to look at polls and election models because I wanted to see election predictions in a statistical manner. I remember fivethirtyeight in 2008 and that was my first real experience with polls. A few years afterwards, I started to look at issue polling and wondered why people wanted liberal policies but did not end up voting for Democrats/liberals. The book and your blog really brought the focus on polls and its relationship to democracy for me.
You go! When we get home will finish reading it. I claim bragging rights for knowing you when you still needed a copy editor. Dude!