Here's how to read election news like a scientist

To understand politics, it helps to think like a scientist.

Campaign coverage of the upcoming presidential election is everywhere, with various polls showing this or that candidate on top. There are national approval ratings, local approval ratings, polls about primary candidates, polls about issues, polls about electability. All of these numbers add up to a cacophony of information that can be difficult to make heads or tails of. In that way, scientists say, they’re a lot like the data a researcher might collect: The individual polls mostly aren’t too useful on their own, without context. But taken together and approached thoughtfully, the polls can add up to the sort of information a scientist would find useful.