Just four days before the first GOP debate, Marist-McClatchy announced that it had suspended its polling because the polls — an average of five of which will determine who gets to be in the first debate — were having too much impact on the outcome of a process they were only supposed to be observing.
“Now the public polls are affecting the process they’re supposed to be measuring,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute.
If this sounds familiar, this is because the polls are proving subject to Observer Effect.
In fact, it’s time for a refresher in the Laws of Political Physics. They are as follows.
The Doppler Effect: When running in a primary, candidate appears farther to the left or right than he or she in fact is, but as candidate nears the general election, candidate’s views appear to approach the center.
Newton’s First Law of Gridlock: A Legislative Body at rest will remain at rest. There is no such thing as a Legislative Body in motion.
Second Law of Gridlock: An incumbent in office tends to remain in office.
Law of Diminishing Returns: As the popularity of a candidate approaches zero, the probability that he or she will release a wildly bizarre video approaches 1.
Neutrino’s Twitter Paradox: A politician’s tweet is never observed until the second after it has been deleted.
Heisenberg Political Uncertainty Principle: Candidates may remain consistent in their polling numbers or consistent in their positions, not both.
Corollary: Candidates may change positions but their polling numbers may still remain unchanged, however.
Properties of Spin: Although the direction of his spin may be changed, a candidate cannot be made to spin slower.
Rule of Dark Matter: SuperPAC dollars cannot be seen by most voters but account for most of the money in this universe.
Avogadro’s Number: 6.02 x 10^23 is the number of dollars required for a candidate to care about your opinion.
Law of Conservation of Attention: The magnitude and duration of a scandal is inversely proportional to the amount of news that week.
Zeroth Law of Wave Properties: Increased polarization can result from feeding all your news through an ideological filter. Polarization can lead to an incoherent state. Sound waves do not exhibit polarization, but sound bytes do.
Ohm’s Law: Anyone who so much as touches a high-voltage issue will encounter disproportionate resistance.
Christie’s Paradox: Momentum is equal to Mass x Velocity, except in the case of Chris Christie.
Observer’s Paradox: How you are doing in the polls will affect how you are doing in the polls.
Schrodinger’s Rule: Campaign is both alive and dead until the votes from crucial Waukesha county have been observed.
Boyle’s Law: As pressure on a candidate increases, the volume at which he speaks also increases.
Newton’s First Law of Talking: Anyone, given a microphone and sufficient time, will make a career-ending gaffe; variously rendered in the formula: As the time a candidate speaks approaches infinity, the probability he will make a career-ending gaffe approaches 1.
Einstein’s First Law of Talking: Once a candidate takes a microphone, time dilates.
The Law of Political Thermodynamics: Heat flows from a warmer body to a cooler one except in the case of microphones, which remain hot at all times.
Zeno’s Paradox: We are always approaching the next election. We will never actually reach it.