Th defeat of the pollsters in last week’s election should teach us a lesson. Once again it became clear that the public, which treats the election surveys like oracles, becomes addicted to what is merely a media gimmick, and falls prey to fantasy. Those who said this election would turn out to be the pollsters Yom Kippur were right. No one has been able to predict Yair Lapid’s stunning soaring to 19 seats; and no one was able to predict that the Likud— heaven forfend —would sink so low, to land only one seat above Yair Lapid. A true humiliation versus an incredible achievement.
In hindsight it appears that the surveys are a kind of superstition. An industry of illusions. Here’s one amazing example: On January 10, 12 days before the elections, on the days when the voters are solidifying their choices, Reshet Bet radio, in a show hosted by Ayala Chason, offered the survey findings of one Yossi Sarid (not the former Meretz MK). Sarid predicted the Likud-Beitenu would get between 34-35 seats, Yair Lapid 9, Meretz 4, Shas 9 and Power for Israel 2. All these predictions have turned out false. But the truly astonishing prediction of this “reliable” survey was that the list of “Ko’ach L’hashpia” (Power to Influence)—heralded by maverick Yemenite rabbi Amnon Yitzhak—would collect 4 seats. A minimum of 4, Saris claimed.
The pollster explained his delusional prediction, saying: “I know things that in a small-sample survey it’s very hard to detect. That’s one of the reasons I’m using very large samples, especially two weeks before the elections. I identify, as of this moment, four seats. And I won’t be surprised if it will be even more, in the end.”
Needless to say, they didn’t get 4 seats, and not even one measly seat. The party that promised “a loaf of bread for one shekel” burned 28,048 votes, which comprised 0.74% of the overall number of legitimate votes cast. This was a wild contrast to the arrogant announcement Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak had made in his Rosh Ha’ayin appearance, when he said: “I’m hoping for 18 seats; my following is ironclad.”
(The limitation on a list participating in the elections is that it must pass the qualifying threshold, which is currently 1.5% of the votes, or the equivalent of 2 Knesset seats.)
Along with those lost votes, there went 66,840 votes received by Power for Israel (which was promised by the pollsters between 2-6 seats, and its leaders promised at a press conference on November 13, 2012: “We’ll get more than 3 seats.”), and another 45,691 which were awarded to Am Shalem (Rabbi Amsalem’s list that was also prophesied an astonishing success—Rabbi Amsalem himself promised the financial website The Marker: “We’ll get more than 4 seats). And thousand more precious votes were wasted on esoteric lists like Breslav, Moreshet Avot, and other charlatans.
Once again it turned out that the Seker is a Sheker (literally – the survey is a lie), and that flattering surveys gave candidates a skewed view of reality. As a result, a myriad votes cast by Torah observant Jews were scattered and ended up supporting parties like Meretz and Hadash, Haneen Zuabi and Ahmad Tibi – and for that the pollsters should repent.
Let’s learn from this lesson to stop relying on surveys, once and for all – stop the addiction to this lie.