The first time I doubted opinion polls was when I watched, in amazement, Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.
Almost everyone thought Hillary Clinton would win the presidency – even myself – because that was what the numbers in the newspapers and quoted on TV and on social media predicted.
As the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) itself admitted in a statement at the time, “the polls were clearly wrong.” The New York Times, my main source of information in the United States, made several measurement errors in trying to explain why its polls predict election results so poorly.
The figures published in almost every media outlet during the campaign sent the message ‘we have already won’ to Clintou and his supporters – and the miscalculation cost them the election.
We are paying the price for this slippage every day when Trump mismanages his country and makes barbers splash and resonate around the world, including Brazil.
Last week I felt the searing sting of bad research for the second time.
Datafolha wanted to know if the population approves the expansion of the Ocupa Rua pilot project that I created in partnership with São Paulo City Hall, Chief Janaína Rueda and Metro Arquitetos in downtown São Paulo.
A project based on the decree of August 5 which allows commercial establishments in a certain district of downtown São Paulo to build extensions of their businesses in the street, by replacing parking spaces.
The main objective of the pilot was to compensate for the loss of income of bars and restaurants which, in addition to being less frequented by the public, had to remove most of the seats from their lounges by order of health surveillance, to avoid transmission of Covid-19.
These extensions occupying parking spaces are terraces protected from cars by huge gardeners full of vegetation.
There, people of São Paulo can eat out (at Bar do Buraco, Sertó, Boi na Brasa, Berton Grill and Casa do Porco, among others) and drink with friends (at Celeiro das Tribos karaoke or at the Tokyo bar). Or they can just sit on a bench to read the newspaper or have little conversations, as they do on the beautiful terrace built by the project in front of the Escola da Cidade (with a mask, of course).
Not a single street has been closed, the traffic is moving normally. Sanitary restrictions are numerous and strictly observed, starting with the large space between the tables.
Thus, an investigation by Datafolha distorted the concept of the project by asking the public if “the closure of streets to place tables in bars and restaurants should take place in all areas of the city or just in the central region”.
If someone called me to ask if I thought it was a good idea to close the streets, as the title of the article published on December 23, “setting up bar tables” says, I cried furiously: “Of course not!”
Most think like me.
Of the 1204 respondents, 77% said they were against. Only they are opposed to something that has never been proposed and even less approved by decree.
This invasion of the streets – “get ready, your neighborhood will turn into an open-air bar !!” – was imagined by the creator of the opinion poll. This has not happened in the center, or elsewhere in the city, according to the current mayor.
It may seem ridiculous to compare the very serious consequences of the mistakes of the political scientists who predicted Hillary Clinton’s victory with this recent Datafolha slip. But for the thousands of bar, snack and restaurant owners in São Paulo who are eagerly awaiting the expansion of the Ocupa Rua pilot project or, at least, the liberation from the use of sidewalks, it’s a matter of life. or death for their businesses.
Misleading research has the power to influence public opinion. And public opinion – mainly during the campaign – influences the mayor who stands for election.
If Bruno Covas has not yet published the decree which extends the project to other neighborhoods, not even the use of sidewalks, it is in part because he fears that the majority of voters are against, like the the research suggests.
To those who told Datafolha that they don’t want the streets to become outdoor bars, I say: don’t worry, there is no such risk.
And to anyone who hasn’t understood how some street tables help save business in these tough times, I recommend you visit General Jardim, Major Sertório, and Bento Freitas streets, preferably on a sunny day.
Not only are the dealers relieved by the increased income, which avoids the layoff of employees, but the pilot project’s green terraces have made the area safer, cleaner and happier.
The smiles on the faces of more and more visitors, the lively chatter around the tables, the Instagrammers posting compliments with the colors and the plants and the locals strolling there calmly paint a picture of the public reaction to the project. more faithful. than the ill-conceived research that stained it.