The failure of the election polls and the future of survey research

Written by Brian Tarran on . Posted in Social Sciences

Before joining Significance, I spent more than a decade reporting on the market research and opinion polling industry. Election periods were always the most exciting of times on this particular ‘beat’. For the pollsters, though, these periods involved a lot of hard work, and there was always a nervous anticipation for the vote itself. Each company quietly hoped that theirs would be the most accurate eve-of-election poll. But there was also the risk that their estimates would be wrong, and rather than demonstrating their accuracy, the companies would be forced to explain their mistakes.

Paper cuts: Do ambient light levels influence criminal activities?

Written by Brian Tarran on . Posted in Social Sciences

People often feel less safe when walking in the dark, for understandable reasons. It’s harder to be fully aware of your surroundings, for one, which causes many of us to fear a criminal might be lurking in wait. But are we right to be concerned? Do light levels influence criminal activity? That’s a question asked recently by Jennifer L. Doleac of the University of Virginia, and Nicholas J. Sanders of Cornell University.

The joy of clustering

Written by Samantha Tyner on . Posted in Culture

In April 2014, FiveThirtyEight published a statistical analysis of the paintings of Bob Ross. Journalist Walt Hickey hand-coded hundreds of pieces of art in order to identify common themes. If that sounds like too much hard work, statistics PhD student Samantha Tyner describes an alternative machine-led approach that could make future art analysis a little bit easier. 


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