Monday, November 3, 2008

Silobreaker "Truthiness" - Who Needs Opinion Polls?

It’s the eve of the US Presidential Election and pollsters are working around the clock to predict the result. Each new poll, though, seems to have a shelf-life of no more than a few hours and is met with either suspicion or disbelief (or is forgotten in the deluge of other polls being released).

The problems with polls, of course, are that (a) they can only cover a very small sample of the actual electorate because of the time and effort involved in carrying out the surveys; and (b) they rely on the people being asked to actually vote the way they say they will when being polled. We know from the past, however, that many voters may say one thing and vote another.

So, if polls offer no more than “qualified guesses”, aren’t there faster and cheaper ways to come up with an alternative gauge of the election outcome?

Take a look at the chart below.

The chart shows the relative share of mentions in the news between Obama, McCain, Biden and Palin. To go to the chart click here.

Since the campaigns begun, Silobreaker has aggregated hundreds of thousands of articles related to the US election and anyone can use its Trends Search to see the relative media attention that the presidential and vice-presidential candidates receive over time. Essentially, it enables users to measure trends from what the aggregate press corps is writing about. In our blog from 14th September,Silobreaker Truthiness – The Sarah Palin Effect”, we showed how Sarah Palin dominated news coverage following her surprise appearance as John McCain’s running mate. The chart above shows that it didn’t last and that Barack Obama has raced away from John McCain in the last week or so in terms of media coverage.

This is not the time to go deeper into the correlation between media attention and opinion polls, let's just observe that the Silobreaker chart suggests what almost every poll indicates right now as well.

It may not be more reliable, but the "Silobreaker poll" takes a few seconds to conduct and can be re-run at any time for updated results.

Kristofer Mansson, CEO

The trend charts that Silobreaker extracts and visualizes are not pre-determined or manually edited in any way. All Silobreaker’s search results are deduced by algorithms performing semantic and statistical analyses of tens of thousands of articles every day. Sounds complicated? Well, the equivalent manual research effort would be more or less impossible. Silobreaker's search results offer users "auto-generated" insight, which is updated dynamically as new articles are being published and the search is re-run.

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