01/22/2014 07:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Let's Make 2016 Pollster Speculation Better By Using These Shorthand Symbols In Headlines

Win McNamee via Getty Images

It is currently January 2014, many hundreds of days before the 2016 election. That’s a long journey without much to talk about, but as you soon learn when you get into this typing-about-politics game, there are plenty of ways to sustain a pointless conversation. One way we fuel the narrative is with scads and scads of statistical noise, generated by the polling industry, which frequently joins/enables us in chasing the next big fix.

Now, this is not to say that the periodic data generated by pollsters isn't sometimes useful or worthy of mention. Just not a lot of it. And in our experience, a lot of the headlines generated by the efforts of pollsters during the long run-up to an election year starts with a pretty formulaic, or even reflexive, exploration of public opinion, and leads to a concise set of media tropes that can be repeated, week after week, in the headlines of political reporting.

Well, we’ll be damned if there’s anything we can do to stop this from happening, but at the very least, we can make the process more efficient. So, for the benefit of everyone plying the “writing up the most recent polls” trade, we offer a new shorthand system. Using the guide we lay out below, you can save thousands of characters in your polling coverage this year, simply by deploying a few handy symbols that can serve as permanent stand-ins for those sentence-long concepts you would otherwise have to repeat, again and again and again, for the next two years.

As a visual aid, we have provided examples of their usage, rendered in our house style. Enjoy!


ℑ: This symbol becomes the universal code for: “It's way too early to write about 2016, but here we are doing it anyway, like idiots!”

polling symbol one


Þ: Hillary Clinton and (recent events aside, let’s just say) Chris Christie are ahead in their respective 2016 primaries, shockingly!

ß: Hillary Clinton has a 15-point lead against every GOP candidate who isn't (again, for the sake of argument) Chris Christie.

polling symbol two


»: This poll went ahead and also tested 26 other super-duper obscure candidates because there literally wasn't anything better to ask about in May 2014.

polling symbol three


±: This poll reports that one frequently written-about candidate has experienced a 2-point drop, which we could make into a bigger deal than it is if we just use a super strong verb like “PLUMMETING” or “COLLAPSING.”

polling symbol four


Ñ: “No, [name of candidate] is not running/can’t run/won’t run, but what if [name of candidate] did/could/would run? Huh?! What then!?”

polling symbol five


℘: This poll is hyping a total outlier result, but it's a slow news day.

polling symbol six


Ø: Yes, your suspicions are correct, Public Policy Polling is trolling you again.

polling symbol seven


ℜ: Do you remember that time Rudy Giuliani was thought to be a strong presidential contender? Like 2006 or something? In 2022 we're going to find this just as funny.

polling symbol eight


Θ: Indicates that the article contains totally disingenuous advice offered to a leading Democratic candidate by pollster-megahacks Douglas Schoen and Pat Caddell.

polling symbol nine


⊗: Please stop clicking on stories that mention Sarah Palin.

polling symbol ten


[HEADLINE FONT IS COMIC SANS]: This font should just be used for anything Dick Morris says or does.

polling symbol eleven


“aksdfjkafdgjadljasdfjklsd!!!!”: Use the classic “keyboard smash” anytime someone puts Donald Trump in any poll that’s not “Person Americans would most like to see pushed out to sea on an ice floe,” and it results in some sort of pundit-chaos. (Number of exclamation points can vary according to personal taste.)

polling symbol twelve


That ought to take care of a lot of problems, but we reserve the right to update this guide when pollsters inevitably create new ones.



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