One major reason why I believe local politics is in such a sad and corruptible state, and why politicians and even us political activists are so out of touch with the voting public, is a noticeable lack of scientific or even cheaper semi-scientific polls on the local level or even about local issues. Polls are all over federal politics, and so we see few big electoral surprises there. But we routinely see huge electoral surprises on the local level—like the results on land transfer taxes and partisan elections—because we had no warning from any scientific polls.
I am told that scientific polling is expensive, partly because you need professional statisticians to extrapolate reliable information from small data sets, but we can do a great deal better at discovering the will of the people than we are doing [by using] graduate student statisticians working for moderate salaries. As for funding, city and county governments seem to be constantly spending serious money to study just about everything, while what could possibly be more worthwhile for elected governments to study than the democratic will of the people on important policy and budget issues and priorities? Listening to such polls could move our local governments from being republics towards becoming the direct democracies that they should be.
— Alan Ditmore