Opinion The Big Crunch


  Tuesday, 18 Oct 2016 | 1:07 PM ET

Most election pollsters aren't really in it for the money

Election polls often just advertising
Election polls often just advertising   

Every day in this election cycle it seems like there are new polls about the presidential race, and it seems like somebody must be making a lot of money from all that data collection.

But here's the thing: Most of these polls were never meant to make money. They are just marketing and brand placement to help sell something else.

Even the biggest firms, like Gallup, give away political polls to promote the commercial market research for which corporate clients will pay hundreds of millions of dollars. Information like "how often do you shave?" and "what kind of razors do you buy?" helps consumer products firms hone their businesses.

Or take colleges and universities like Quinnipiac, Marist and Monmouth. If it weren't for their polling operations, you may not recognize those names at all. That brand recognition attracts more applications, better students and more prestige and tuition money for the schools.

The only real money in election polling goes to the pollsters hired by the campaigns. And those millions of dollars are less for the polls themselves than the guru-like advice the pollsters provide to the candidates to shape messaging and strategy.

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  Friday, 14 Oct 2016 | 8:59 AM ET

Nobel Prize depreciation means the times they are a'changing for winners

Posted ByMark Fahey

Bob Dylan may be rich already, but the rest of this year's Nobel Prize winners may be wishing they'd won the award a few years ago.

This year, the six Nobel Prizes each came with 8 million Swedish krona, or a little over $900,000 total. When that prize is converted to dollars each year and adjusted for inflation, American winners of the prize will find that they're making less than any winner since 1988.

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  Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 | 1:15 PM ET

The 'gig economy' is growing — and now we know how much

An Uber driver drives a passenger in Boston.
Wendy Maeda | The Boston Globe | Getty Images
An Uber driver drives a passenger in Boston.

Employment in the gig economy is growing far faster than traditional payroll employment, according to a study out Thursday from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

By using a little-know statistic, the researchers found evidence of a significant change in the numbers, and the potential for a huge realignment in the very nature of employment.

Over the past 20 years, the number of gig economy workers — those who operate as independent contractors, often through apps — has increased by about 27 percent more than payroll employees, according to CNBC calculations using data from the report. The change is even more severe in certain industries, like ground transportation, where the number of gig economy workers increased 44 percent more than payroll employees.

Especially along the coasts and in early adopter cities like Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, the researchers found evidence of huge changes and the possibility of gig economy jobs replacing traditional payroll employment. Eighty-one percent of the growth in such jobs over the past four years took place in the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

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  Thursday, 13 Oct 2016 | 12:03 PM ET

The numbers are staggering: Harry Potter and the $25 billion franchise

General view of atmosphere of fans at the 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 An IMAX Experience' release party at AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 theater  in New York.
Getty Images
General view of atmosphere of fans at the 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 An IMAX Experience' release party at AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 theater in New York.

In anticipation of the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the full lineup of Harry Potter will be returning to theaters for a week beginning on Thursday.

Time Warner is looking to further cash in on an eight-film franchise that has already earned more than $7 billion in box office revenue since 2001. Scholastic, which sold more than 160 million copies of the seven Harry Potter novels in the U.S., also published the screenplay for the film. At $24.99 for the hardcover, that adds to the nearly $8 billion in book sales that have already been wrung out of the series.

As in the Star Wars franchise, the value of toy sales shouldn't be underestimated. Hasbro and especially Mattel have both made money on Potter games and toys, and total sales so far are estimated at over $7 billion. All told, the total value of the franchise so far has been around $25 billion.

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  Wednesday, 12 Oct 2016 | 12:05 PM ET

Samsung's Galaxy recall is the biggest since ... we're not really sure

This Oct. 9, 2016 photo shows a damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on a table in Richmond, Va., after it caught fire earlier in the day.
Shawn L. Minter | AP
This Oct. 9, 2016 photo shows a damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on a table in Richmond, Va., after it caught fire earlier in the day.

Between Samsung phones, Chipotle burritos and Volkswagen diesel engines, it seems like it's been the year of recalls. It begs the question: How big is the Samsung recall, compared with all the others?

The Korean electronics giant announced Tuesday that it will halt production of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone just weeks after U.S. regulators issued a recall of 1 million of the model for risk of catching fire. According to reports, the replacement models were also defective. Samsung's market capitalization shed about $18 billion following the news.

The fiasco will probably cost the company billions, but it's hard to compare against other major product recalls. Any kind of item can be recalled, and there's no single source for information on those recalls. Instead, there's a patchwork of at least seven government agencies, each of which is tasked with tracking recalls of a particular type of product.

That alphabet soup of government agencies — including the NHTSA, CPSC, FDA and EPA — are all linked at www.Recalls.gov, a supposedly one-stop shop for recall information that really just points the user back to each individual agency's website. Each agency has its own units for tracking recalls: pounds of meat, units of defective vending machine jewelry, or bags of glass-contaminated bread.

Here's a look at how each organization tracks its recalls, and the biggest ones on record.

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  Tuesday, 11 Oct 2016 | 11:46 AM ET

The Russian threat to US elections may look different than you're thinking

Vladimir Putin
Ivan Sekretarev | Pool | CNBC
Vladimir Putin

Much of this year's election cycle has centered around the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, especially U.S. allegations that Russia is using cyberattacks to disrupt the democratic process. But the true nature of the threat is a little different than most Americans imagine.

Last week, the Obama administration accused senior Russian officials of authorizing hacks into the Democratic National Committee and other targets. They also pointed to "scanning and probing" of online election rolls in some states that seemed to be coming from Russian servers.

The U.S. government may be reticent about retaliating against Russia with its own cyberattacks right now, according to The New York Times, because Russia could come back to disrupt the U.S. elections next month. The Times wrote, "Attacks on online voter registration rolls could sow chaos at polling places, and the election infrastructure has never truly been tested against a power like Russia."

However, several cybersecurity experts we spoke with suggested the harm that could be caused by Russian attacks would be more psychological than anything else. According to a statement released last week by the U.S. intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security, the federal government has determined it would be "extremely difficult" for even a nation-state to use cyberattacks to alter actual ballot counts in America's decentralized election system.

"It's not clear whether these attacks could change the integrity of the data," said Rahul Telang, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies the economics of information security and privacy. "The storyline that someone was trying to access these systems is more damaging than any actual damage to the data."

Most state voting systems still maintain a paper trail and other checks and balances, but it would take only one perceived success to introduce doubt about the process for many Americans. In a September poll by The Washington Post and ABC News, half of Donald Trump's supporters already aren't confident that the "votes for president across the country will be accurately counted this year."

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