Opinion Polling and Election Predictions

Philosophy of Science 82 (5):1260-1271 (2015)
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Election prediction by means of opinion polling is a rare empirical success story for social science. I examine the details of a prominent case, drawing two lessons of more general interest: Methodology over metaphysics. Traditional metaphysical criteria were not a useful guide to whether successful prediction would be possible; instead, the crucial thing was selecting an effective methodology. Which methodology? Success required sophisticated use of case-specific evidence from opinion polling. The pursuit of explanations via general theory or causal mechanisms, by contrast, turned out to be precisely the wrong path—contrary to much recent philosophy of social science
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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