All the attention to the latest swings in tracking polls reminds me of my early days as a fishery biologist and the lessons learned from tracking a dead fish...

Just prior to the advent of satellite tags and archival data storage technology, scientists used acoustic tracking to study the fine scale movements of fish.

Acoustic tracking:
You would go out in a boat equipped with a hydrophone and a GPS receiver and then attach a tag that would emit a ping that you could then track with the vessel until the battery on the tag wore out, you lost the signal, or you had to get the boat back to port. You would log latitude and longitude every minute and the rate of ping could be used to track depth. The whole process results in a track of the vertical and horizontal movement behavior or your fish.
Off the coast of the island of Hawaii, we once tagged a 200 lb blue marlin and started tracking it. For a few hours it headed steadily west... then it began changing directions frequently.  We kept tracking that fish for the next two days, getting great signals and a solid track.  On the way back to port the lead researcher was glowing about what a great record we had gotten. Yet in the back of my mind something seemed wrong, and being new to this research group, I kept my mouth shut.  Sure enough, when I plotted out the latitudes, longitudes, and depth profiles-- it became apparent that the marlin died about 4hrs after we tagged it and sunk to the bottom.

We had a beautiful record of the tracking/piloting styles of the three people on the boat-- one of us made frequent 180 degree turns to stay really close to the fish, another tracker would go on long straight runs until the signal was quite faint and then turn back and run across the dead fish location in giant straight lines, and I tended to make zig-zag movements from all sorts of directions.

In terms of scientific information, all we ever had was a dead fish and this election has been just that for a long time. No post debate swings, momentum changes, bumps, or waves! Just different tracking methods of different pollsters all jockeying around an electorate that is about the same as it was a year ago.

PhotobucketRasmussen's poll tracker

The polls reflect an unmoving electorate from different angles, if we motivate the electorate to come out-- President Obama will win, the Senate will be controlled by Democrats, and progressives will make gains in the House of Representatives. All we need to do is to try and get folks to vote for Democrats GOTV

Originally posted to tharu1 on Wed Oct 24, 2012 at 06:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Systems Thinking.

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