Who are the 27 pecenters? Bias is a wonderful/terrible thing

realityby VinothChandar

Poll: 27 Percent of People Think It’s Too Easy to Vote
[Via Slate]

Thank you for asking, Rasmussen Reports. Just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is now too hard to vote in the United States. Twenty-seven percent (27%) think it’s too easy to vote in America today, while 50% feel the level of difficulty is about right. Without seeing the partisan breakdown, we can safely assume that these numbers skew toward partisan sympathies. The president, in his inaugural address and in the State of the Union, has called to make voting easier. Partisans tend to gravitate toward the opinion shared by fellow partisans and condemned by the adversary. It’s just surprising in this case because voter ID advocates like John Fund are typically also in favor of making voting easier.


Once you notice it, you will see that 27% number show up everywhere. Just Google ‘27% survey’. Should we be worried? 

27% of Americans thing Congress is doing a good job. 27% of latinos voted for Romney. 27% believe God affects the outcomes of sporting events. 27% support the war in Afghanistan. 27% said the recent election hurt their relationship with a friend. 27% of women would rather skip a shower than fix a PC. 27% of conservatives want to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. Yet 27% of all Americans support the war in Afghanistan.

27% of the people who have never married were not sure they ever wanted to while 27% of the never married men never want to. 27% of the enterprises in Europe collaborated with others to innovate. 27% believe an endorsement by the NRA is a plus. 27% of Americans would like to vacation on the Moon yet 27% of Americans will travel less for vacation.

27% of patients use online health information to circumvent going to the doctor. 27% of Wisconsin CEOs say the economy is healthy. 27% of those worth over $100 million feel that luxury housing is what makes a city globally important.

27% of the Millennials thought Obama was going to lose. 27% of alumni do not trust the Penn State University Administration. 27% of non-voters are Republicans. 27% of Americans want funding for needy people to be increased. 27% of the people in America think China’s military might  is a greater threat than its economic strength. 27% of Americans say abortion is not a moral issue.

Now there is not really a core group of Americans with such a strange set of beliefs. This is a classic example of bias. I noticed something – 27%. It rand a bell with another poll with a similar number – the recency effect. So I went looking to Google to see if there was some group of 27 percenters that popped up in surveys.

Sure enough, there were over 27 million hits for my search.  This must be important – confirmation bias. I then showed you a bunch of them – selection bias.

And I am sure there are more that I leave as an exercise to the reader.

The point is that we can easily fall into views that are simply not right and must use logical approaches to work against this bias. Here, one might be to catalog how a search for 26% or 29% or 32% changed things. we could get an uninterested observer to do the collation, preferably one who has not looked at this problem before.

We have to work hard to prevent our biases from impinging on reality. One has to remain skeptical of what one actually ‘believes’ because cognitive bias – and there are a lot of them – can be a real problem with creating a reality that works.