Polls vs Win Charts – Positional Heuristics – Extra Politics – #2

Polls vs Win Charts – Positional Heuristics – Extra Politics – #2


This is a win chart. It’s used in games to describe what percentage chance each player has to win at any given point during play This is a poll. It is used to give people an idea of who’s going to win an election They might look the same but they are very different. [Intro music] Let’s start by looking at a win chart. This is a win chart for a simple best-of-three coin-flip game. We start out with an equal chance of winning. If I win the first flip then I have a 75% chance because my odds of winning best-of-three are greatly increased. But then if you win the next flip we’re back to 50-50. It’s anybody’s game. Next coin flip wins. So that was a win chart. Now here is a tracking Poll done over the last few months of the 2016 election. At first glance, this looks very much like the win chart – it’s got a lot of numbers, and each candidate’s odds of winning seem to fluctuate over time, just like in our coin flip game Now, I’m going to spend the rest of this episode explaining why win charts and polls are different, but, There is one area where they have very similar effects, That area, is Heuristics Heuristics, are rules of thumb for particular systems. Some examples of heuristics in gaming would be: “Never draw to an inside straight” Or, “Shift your infield to the left against right handed hitters.” As players learn more of a system’s heuristics, they get better at whatever the system is, And politics, naturally, have heuristics as well Heuristics comes in 2 type: Strategic and Positional. Strategic Heuristics are long term plans that you try to implement over the course of the game like Establish the running game early to open up the passing game later. Or in politics, lock down super delegates early to discourage competitors. Positional Heuristics, on the other hand, are based on specific situations that may arise during a game like: Knowing to bring in a relieve pitcher. Or in politics, knowing that when you get caught in a scandal, you should have spouse standing at your side for a while, and use a lot of Christian sounding terms like Forgiveness. Now, some games produce win charts that are clear to the players like that straight forward coin flip sample from earlier. But often it’s a lot trickier for players to figure out clear precise win charts for the game they’re playing. And we call this uncertainty “Fuzziness”. That fuzziness comes from complexity, randomness, playing against human who don’t act consistently, and having some information that’s not available to all players. In politics, win charts can sometimes be fairly clear. For example, a good party whip would know exactly how many congressional votes they can count on for an upcoming vote. But political win charts can also be extraordinarily fuzzy. Particularly when it comes to elections. Knowing where you are on a win chart is critical information for Positional Heuristics. If you don’t know how close the game is, you could easily apply the wrong Heuristics to your current situation . And unfortunately, polls are really the only tool candidates have to measure who’s currently ahead. Which brings me to my main point: Knowing where you are in the polls is NOT the same as knowing where you are on a win chart. Political candidates generally use polling information as a substitute for a win chart in order to deploy a Positional Heuristics to their current situation. Toward the end of the 2016 US Presidential election, the poll showed Hillary Clinton having a comfortable lead, so she deployed the standard Positional Heuristics for what you do when you are ahead. Her campaign actions were an incredibly logical deployment of Heuristics The only problem was she wasn’t actually ahead. Meanwhile, using that same polling information, the Donald Trump campaign followed the Heuristics for what to do when you are losing. You solidify your base, so even if you lose you at least retain political relevance post-election. Now it’s easy for us to look at the results of this election in hindsight and say that the winning was brilliant in their strategy. While the loser made a bunch of stupid mistakes, but the truth is the last election both candidates were following standard Positional Heuristics. Had they known their actual positions on the win chart, you can be sure they both would acted very differently. This is what the actual win chart would have looked like the day before the election. At that point the campaigns had already been run and the voters had made up their minds. You could have run that election day 100 times and the outcome would not change. Donald Trump may have been behind in the polls, but it turned out he was way ahead on the win chart. And the only thing that could possibly swung the election at this point would have been something truly unusual. So okay, how exactly is polling different from a win chart? WEll, let’s look at the win chart for a baseball game. Here is what the chart looks like when a team is up 1 to 0 at the end of the first inning. And here is what that win chart looks like when the team is up 1-0 with just one inning left to play. See? Even though the score is the same, the win chart is much decisive towards the end Because there’s less variability left. The losing team only has one more inning to turn things around. And the chart reflects their diminishing chances. This is something that polls just aren’t able to capture. No matter how close you get to the election, the polls won’t look anymore decisive than they appeared near the beginning. And polls have lots of others systemic issues that can make them far less reliable than they might seem. Many of these issues are the same problems that exists in win charts. Imperfect information, randomness, complexity, all of that stuff. But the bigger problems are baked into how the polls are collected. Factors like sample size, question format, the subset of people being polled, self-selective reporting, all of these systemic effects make it so that even with multiple polls to work with, polling can never quite function as a win chart. So given all of that: why do campaigns based their Heuristics on polling? Well, because polling is often the only measure campaigns have to build their relative positions. It’s not great, but it’s the best they got. That said polls also have a powerful effect on voters. And their positional Heuristics. If Hillary Clinton supporters knew just how far behind she actually was on the win chart toward the end of that election, many of them probably would have acted differently. Volunteering, giving money, actually voting. And Donald Trump supporters would have acted differently, too if they knew that he was way ahead. Now, games evolve over time I expect that either we eventually get better at removing the fuzziness from political win charts Or new Heuristics would be implemented to better adapt to that fuzziness. Either way it’s important for us to look at polls as just 1 data point when we decided how to best engage politically. It is easy to see why people put so much stock in polls though On the surface, they can seem to accurate which links us to asking
“Why do voters trust them so much?” If a poll comes out and says that party A is ahead 60-40 with a 4% margin of error Many people read that as 4% Margin of Error? HOT Dang! It’s almost mathematically impossible for party A to lose. Sadly, that is not what Margin of Error means in this case. What is actually means is if we do this poll again, using the exact same process, our next result will likely be within 4% of this result And margin of error doesn’t take into account the systemic issues with polls Or all the time between now and election day. And on top of that, a lot of people subconsciously assumed that polls stack. Meaning that if you’re ahead in more than 1 poll, or if you’re ahead in the same poll consistently overtime, then the polls must be more closely reflecting the win chart! And I mean, that’s understandable mistake to make. Consistency implies predictability in so many parts of out life. Alas, it does not work that way for polls Because polls suffers from systemic effects and those effects impacts polls in a similar way each time the poll’s done. Now don’t get me wrong, polls can be incredibly useful political tools. Particularly the nitty-gritty details that campaigns use for micro targetting which rarely gets reported on the news. There’s also some great math that goes on with the polls. And with poll aggregaters, but for national campaigns, they can terrible guides for positional Heuristics.

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100 thoughts on “Polls vs Win Charts – Positional Heuristics – Extra Politics – #2”

  • As players learn more of a system’s heuristics (rules of thumb), they get better at whatever the system is. And politics, naturally, have heuristics as well.

  • What is the win chart based on, and what were the wins that Donald Trump had before the election itself?

    Call me an idiot for asking this question, or for how I ask it (I do so daily, because I have to explain to people I am twice as dumb as I look), about the relation between the win chart between the popular vote. Even though it is the Electoral College that decides the election, I still want to know what the win chart is based on or if it is related to the popular vote, the electoral college, the campaign trails, media exposure, etc, etc.

    Watch mojo predicted that Donald Trump would win. I don't remember what it was based on, but given I just repeatedly simplify the elections to popularity contests (even though it is decided by the Electoral College), I figured the reason they predicted this was because in their minds they were comparing the charisma of an actor to that of a woman with the outward personality of stale milk. (I voted for Hillary, even though I knew she would loose. I'm not the "I stand with the wining side kinda of guy." Go ahead, call me an idiot, I do so daily.)

    We Know that Donald Trump won, so therefore the win chart shows us Donald Trump at the top of the chart. However, every time I look for numbers related to the popular vote I see that Hilary was ahead. So that begs the question, what are the win charts based on? What data should I be looking at if not public record or the polls from the time? What were Donald Trumps wins before the election itself

  • You mentioned that the win chart would be unlikely to change save for something extrodinary happening. Yet I have heard from multiple groups post election that this is exactly what happened.

    The news cycle was on the Access Hollywood tapes when the last polls were being conducted. Understandably, this turned many voters off of Trump, which is why the polls were coming back blue. But then Come revealed that more Clinton emails were discovered. This now dominated the news, and is theorized to have turned many voters. The polls, which lag by a few days, did not have time to accurately reflect the shift in opinion.

    In other words, there was a prevalent post election theory that Clinton would have won the election had it been held a few days prior (before the email announcement). What are your thoughts on this theory?

  • Politics & Mario Kart: the further behind you are the bigger weapons at your disposal.

    A candidate with almost no chance at winning has little to lose when making big plays.

  • While I don't think it changes the overall conclusion of this video, I feel like they should have mentioned that many polls weren't adjusted for the electoral college. The 3 million vote lead in the popular vote that Hillary got was actually close to what the polls had been saying. Although obviously yes the polls were still off in some key swing states that Hillary needed the overall national polls that made Hillary supporters feel safer actually did accurately predict how the American people voted, just not the candidate the electoral college chose.

  • Sometimes the difference between poll results and election results are not casued by systemic problems of the polls, but systemic issues with the election itself…
    http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/
    http://www.fairvote.org/what_is_proportional_representation_and_why_do_we_need_this_reform

  • One thing I was a bit surprised you didn’t bring up was the added role of the electoral college in the fuzziness of the 2016 election. As I recall, most of the poll results reported on the news were national polls. But the president is decided by the electoral vote, not the popular vote. So in addition to all of the fuzziness already inherent in polls, they weren’t an accurate metric of the actual measure of victory. Imagine playing a typical FPS game, but where some players see team scores based on the % of the map held, instead of enemies killed. By being shown an inaccurate measure for what it takes to win, they may think their team is doing really well, until after the match ends.

  • From what I understand of the 2016 polling, it WAS accurate….on a national level – Hillary won the election (in terms of votes) by the amount predicted. However, the polling was knowlingly bad in certain key states. As such, sites like fivethirtyeight.com were saying things like "yes, the national polls suggest a Clinton win – but we've got fuzzy data in a number of key locations. So, if this is going to go sideways, there are four or so ways it can do that" – and it turned out that one of those scenarios is what happened.

  • im placing money down that the mario kart episode will have to do with the recovery system baked into either first or last place.

  • i never pay attention to polls, they only get some people to vote on them, and sometimes people tell the the polls, they'll vote one way then go and vote the other.

  • Prediction about next video in this series: in politics, who has the top position is constantly attacked by the opposition, in the same way the 1st place in a Mario Kart race is the target for everyone behind.

  • oh the 2016 election the best entertainment in a long ass time all the aspects had drama suspense conflict comedy and twists oh the twists and the best part is that entertainment is still going sure the election is over but the party has just begun yet are main cast are taking smaller roles while the actions of the people are centre stage never have we had such a spectacular event since the cold war but this is different much more exciting what do you guys think

  • I still remember the news about how Donald Trump has no plans about who any of his president office staffs are 10 days in after he won the election. Guess he really didn't expect he would win either.

  • What you forgot to say is that polls aren’t win charts for candidates but for individual randomly selected voters.

  • Any chance you'll use other countries as examples in your discussions for this?

    It seems very American-centric and different countries have very different ways to run elections based on their own unique circumstances.

  • Things Mario kart and elections have in common. After the primaries you might have rubber banding going on.The use of the blue shell indicates to me a targeting of the current favorite by everyone else.

  • I'm wondering why the issues with polling aren't addressed to make them more accurate. Like, how they only call landlines, which means you sample is likely to skew older.

  • It's certainly not the music – neither US party has a jingle as catchy as Mario Kart 64's Rainbow Road.

  • Not all polls are equal, you can do a lot to make them more accurate, or you can do a lot to make them say what you want. This happened in 2016 too, the good polls predicted Trumps win, or at least gave him a fair chance, but the media only talked about the ones that were intentionally biased toward Hillary. For example they excluded young voters who were the most dissatisfied with the status quo. Or ignored independents, which was a small group historically, but became huge in 2016.

  • I have a question, hope someone could enlighten me: Does the polls made in US goes on par with how the voting system works there (The Electoral College) or just goes with the percentage of people's voting intentions?

  • The problem imo with this video is that in the 2016 election example, Hillary Clinton actually WAS winning in the win chart. She won the majority of Americans by a wide margin. The unexpected curveball was that Trump very, VERY narrowly eeked a few thousand votes in a few states and won the whole states. He won on basically exploiting some really bad technicality rules in the electoral college.

    Donald Trump, if the election were truly democratic, should not have come close to winning. Sadly 3 million californians didn't matter as much as 20 thousand Pennsylvanians. For some bizarre, stupid reason.

  • I love extra credits. I've been subbed for many years. To me, this series has started pretty slow.

    I'm just spoiled, because of the quality of extra history, I suppose.

    HERE'S WHAT I WANT TO SEE!!!
    Ranked, Approval and Scored are better… so why do we use plurality voting?
    What is the minimum number of Senators required to pass a bill through congress? (Hint: It's less than 50% with quorum rules!)
    How do you keep a bill from becoming a law?
    How do you keep a Bernie Sanders off the Democratic ticket?
    Go DEEEP on the parties. Shred them.
    Revolutions! Constitutional Conventions!
    Vattel's Law of Nations… etcetera, etcetera.

    Politics is all about game theory… not this "after school special" stuff… real nuts and bolts, DIRTY game theory.
    Anyhoo, good episode.

  • Betting the Mario Kart comparison is about rubber banding. No matter how far behind you get in Mario Kart, the game will give you better tools to catch up, and in some versions the AI will slow down or literally stop so you can catch up. In politics, when your base sees you doing poorly in the polls, they feel more motivated to actually step up and DO something, thereby increasing your odds.

  • Like in Mario kart, when in first place in an election, you will be hit by a blue shell. . ., Unless you are the smart ads that smuggles a blue shell into first

  • Is that really true about Trump having such a comfortable lead, though? As far as I know, he only very narrowly won two of the states he needed, for example.

  • What people also misunderstand, which you should possibly cover, is what it really means when somebody says that for example "Hillary has a 70% chance of winning". The people who said this weren't wrong because Trump won, because, well, 70% doesn't equal 100%.

  • the only thing i dislike about this is the weirdness of all the characters used like wtf is with the pink hair and all the weird ass styles of hair. i would prefer if you differed to a more "normal" hair style just to make it less distracting

  • Great new series, but some big problems here. You made some glaring mistakes when it comes to the accuracy and interpretation of polling. If a candidate has a 60/40 lead in the polls, then they are all but guaranteed to win, a 20 point advantage is absolutely massive and many people misinterpret it to be closer to a 60% chance to win rather than the 90% or higher. polling lead does not equal percent chance to win. This applies if we are talking about polling averages, rather than individual polls of course. The fact is, polling averages in presidential elections are very accurate, the national polls in 2016 were pretty close to the real result. The problem isn't polling, it is how the media and sometimes campaigns interpret that polling. The media loves to report on individual polling results as though, 1 poll that says something interesting is a big deal, rather than focusing on what matters which is the aggregate of many polls.

  • Any chance you guys are going to cover first-past-the-post vs instant-runoff ballots? Seems relevant since Maine confirmed it's ranked ballot.

  • +Extra Credits My main take-away is that win-charts and polls are different, and that heuristics exist as win-oriented reactions to both. I think this will be helpful, I think, but you never actually explained how the two are mechanically different. You explained the diminishing variability in a win chart, but never said how the poll worked, just that it's sources were unreliable. Maybe that was the only difference, but you seemed to be leading up to something more fundamental. You also describe both candidates as having failed to understand the win-chart, but never describe what they could have actually looked at. Are you talking about hindsight being 20-20, or just emphasizing that the info is so fuzzy you can't make a win-chart for politics? (which seems to make the comparison not-so-helpful, unless you have an audience that is well known to conflate the two)

    I'm not trying to be mean. I love your work. I aspire to communicate as clearly as you usually do. It seems that you care greatly about educating everyone, so I hope some critique is okay. You're fantastic, and I look forward to the next video 🙂

  • There will always be an uncertainty in polls. But it sounded like you were saying polls did not improve over time. A poll two days before the presidential election may not be perfect or accurate, but I have to believe it is more accurate (less inaccurate) than one two years before.

  • What happens when the people conducting the poll have a vested interest in making everyone think one candidate is doing better than they actually are?

  • really late here, but I just wanted to say I really appreciated your unbiased explanation of things here, even though I think I know where your political leanings are.

    Smashed that like button 🙂

  • If you're going to view politics through the lens of game design, will you do a video on how Russia represents cheating and griefing?

  • Fascinating! Question for everyone even though im late 🙂

    How then do we do as a political campaign to convince voters the poll do not represent (always) the real situation?

    Every answer is good ^^

  • One small disagreement: Trump never had a substantial advantage. What he had was a fighting chance when every seeming expert thought he didn't (probably BECAUSE nobody though he had a chance). If you ran the election 100 times in alternate universes, I expect that you would probably see at least 20-30 Democratic wins, if not more. Unfortunately, nobody realized he had a snowball's chance in hell, which led to poor behavior on the Democratic side fueled by overconfidence, which in turn led to protest votes by people angered by that poor behavior. If it had been common knowledge that a Trump victory was possible, I would have expected a lot less brinksmanship from both leaders and members of the Democratic party.
    Also, assuming you got the candidate images from the same place you got that poll, I have a very definite sense that it was trying to portray Hillary positively. They found a picture where she looks very serious and noble, and one where Trump looks like a grinning demon.

  • Back when John Howard was PM here in Australia, he intentionally called an election so that it would be held on a long weekend because studies showed the opposition's supporters were less likely to vote than his were in such a case. (Our elections are always held on a Saturday.)

  • A huge problem with polls that this video didn't mention was that a lot of respondents lie for fear of being judged. Here in the UK we call it "Silent Toryism". The Conservative Party – the Tories – are often perceived as being morally inferior to their main rivals, the Labour Party. They are – accurately or not – associated with falling wages, squeezed incomes, increases in poverty, funding cuts, all that fun stuff. People who vote Conservative tend not to shout about it, because there's this feeling among large portions of the population, especially the under-35s, that to vote Conservative is immoral. So when they get asked by polling companies, these people say they'll vote Labour or Liberal Democrat, and then on election day vote Conservative. This was particularly evident in the 2015 election, when the polls predicted a neck-and-neck contest all the way through but then the actual result was a comfortable win for the Conservatives. I don't know if the same thing happened in the 2016 election to contribute to the disparity in the polls and the actual result, but it is worth thinking about.

  • I love that the V votes are yellow, making them look Voluntarist. Extra Credits may think us Vs are only there to sway the vote to either Democrats or Republicans, but there is a large amount of us that are principled non-voters or principled Third Party voters 🙂 My hope is not that the political system evolves to better handle "variables" that could benefit the two party duopoly, it's that the political system will evolve to have better representation for everyone so that people don't feel forced to vote for someone they fundamentally disagree with for the sake of "winning" on one issue.

  • Why are my only closed captioning options Spanish and Korean?…
    edit: For the first time ever on YouTube I've begun working on another channel's closed-captioning. I did most of the work on the part up to, and including, the simple best-of-three coin toss game. Only thing I didn't caption was the intro music. I hope it's a help.

  • So… In a election, it's technical an advantage to be slightly behind, not too much tho, but enough where it puts a pressure in your camp to vote for you, while your opponent's voters are slacking off, while thinking they've secured victory.
    I think I get the picture…

  • Did I miss something? I don’t think he talked about how you would get a win chart or why Donald trump was ahead. Is the win chart just a theoretical concept that we use?

  • “They follow differently if they actually knew wining chance” – it’s true but you don’t consideration how much people vote for the winning candidate just for following to the more bigger group of people

  • One thing you don't explain in this video is why the "real" political win chart is more like the baseball win chart, than the coin toss win chart. I could venture some ideas on your reasoning but I'd like to hear it from you.

    So I will make the opposite conjecture: what IF the polls are in fact the actual political win-charts?

    You show the coin toss win-chart as an example of how the polls are like win-charts but then the baseball win-chart to show how the polls are not like the win-charts, but what if the politics is more like a coin toss than a baseball game, but we know there is more than chance in politics (though I would love a video discussing the effects of chance in politics 😉 ) so let's say that politics is like a coin toss that you could influence. Before the first coin toss everyone is even so everyone try's as best they can and one person ends up on top, due to whatever, psychology, campaigning, or just chance, then immediately the losing side is put on edge and they try harder, and suddenly we're back to zero again, except now they have more energy and they can win the next round… mightn't this be similar to the political poll? the last 'coin toss' had Hillary on top, and so the trump camp was given more fuel to defeat her? the last 'coin toss' in the game being the actual election, we could enter the election results in as the last item in the poll to see the complete chart.

  • Polls measure pop. not electoral votes. Clinton won the popular vote by a healthy margin (approx. 2.85 million votes) but still lost the election due to the electoral votes. Unless state polls conducted have a less than 1% error(which will never happen) some states are going to be close and it's the job of the campaign staff to know which states will be close and focus on those states. Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Minnesota were all close races decided by a less than 2% difference. From what I understand Michigan and Pennsylvania were states the Clinton campaign didn't really pursue due to them swinging Democrat for the past 6 elections.

  • I feel this would be much better explained if you used classical AI terminology, such as the famous A*'s, f(n) = g(n) + h(n), where g(n) is your win chart where h(n) is your estimate

  • For all of those who asked for it – the tabletop game based on this series is now on Kickstarter. Check it out! http://kck.st/2wbtCQY

  • I understand that the focus is on the difference between polls and win charts. However, as one gets REAL close to the election (i.e. on election day), there IS, indeed, additional data available to voters, specifically the early returns from the states with earlier voting, and then the actual results of those states with earlier voting. So, it IS possible for the late voters (AK, HI, CA, OR, WA, etc.) to use 'hard' data from early result states (IN, KY, VT, NY, etc.) to modify what the polling (to that point) has suggested. So, polling that suggested that Hillary was SURE to win BIG might have lulled a lot of liberal voters into complacency. However, once they start seeing troubling outcomes, they COULD adjust their complacency. They don't have much time, but they DO have a short window with additional information.

  • I disagree that Trump merely solidified his base in the lead-up to the election. He actively worked to win over traditionally liberal states, attacking the base while Clinton was out in the field fighting for swing-states. It still makes sense for a player behind on the win chart. The reasoning is that playing it safe when behind will ensure your loss, while making a play that is considered unlikely, but has a high enough reward to win you the game at least gives you a chance to win.

  • Originally, I wasn't going to watch the next video, then you explained the next topic towards the end. Now I have to watch it.

  • One of the single biggest issues with polls is that people lie.

    If I am supportive of a very, VERY controversial candidate, and I know that there are people who want to physically assault me or get me fired from my job for supporting them, why would I tell a stranger on the phone who potentially can track my phone to my home address what I actually believe?

    This is an example of the reversal of "The Bradley Effect"; a situation in which an African American politician, who would've been a historic first for his position and location should had he won, received much higher poll numbers but low turnout simply because many people who weren't going to vote for him lied that they were out of fear of being racist or being called "racist".

    This is why exit polls are always more accurate than entering polls. In that voting booth, nobody will ever know who you chose. And that is incredibly powerful. There may very well be people in your social circle who say they voted one way, even signalled that they would leading up to it, but ultimately chose something else.

  • Probably a stupid question, however, I do not understand the following: when a person in politics messes up, they should have their spouse standing at their side for a while. Is it to make them more relatable, in showing that they have loved ones and are not machines? Is it an attempt to make it appear there was some family related problem? I'm sorry if this may seem like common sense to you but I really don't get it. -Draco

  • 7:02 "On the surface, they [polls] can seem so accurate." Polls generally are accurate, but they are not precise. I can't stand this unscientific bashing of the polls just because some were a few points off (as you would expect!) in one election year. Obviously the media has a statistics understanding problem, but the polls were not "wrong".

  • Also, another thing which probably only applies to the American presidential elections: Even if the polls are 100% accurate and put you slightly in the lead like Hillary, it isn’t a direct democracy. You can lose even when you win the popular vote.

  • Jokes on the democrats Trumps win chart was at 100% the whole time. We're so sick and tired of winning.