VOX POPULI

I think I am getting tired of surveys and polls, even if I agree with their findings. What does it mean if the poll has a ¾ + or -. Does it mean that the poll could be off by a factor of 8, so that someone with a 50% approval rating to his/her opponent’s 42% with 8% undecided mean that the 50% could be 46% and his opponent could be 46% and that the undecideds could be 12% or 4%? As I look at these numbers, I get even more confused.

How about the movement of the percentages as time goes on? Last week the President’s overall approval rate was 40% and his disapproval rate was 60%. This week his approval rate was 50% and his disapproval rate was 35% with 15% undecided. What happened to those people from last week to this week? Did they come into some money from an inheritance? Do they feel better about the President because he really did something right this week, as opposed to the wrong things that he did last week?

How about opinion polls in certain subjects? Each year Phi Delta Kappa ( an educational organization) does a poll on education and how people feel about it. In all of the years that I have seen the poll, people really don’t like education in general, but really like their local schools. How can they have a feeling about the 13,000 school districts in the United States when they have not seen anything about them? What makes the pollsters even as such a general question?

At the beginning of our country, the Founding Fathers had a serious distrust of the hoi poloi. You can see it in the Constitution that they created, with a myriad of checks and balances. They did not trust the people to elect Senators and left that to state legislatures. It wasn’t until the constitution was amended that we changed that to a general election.

Hamilton was cautious about “the people” and said the more local the governing body, the more chance of hankey pankey. He expressed more clearly and looked to the aristocracy to lead us. It wasn’t until that fella’ Jackson that we had a non- landed gentry President.

What happens when the people speak? How do they make their wishes known? Is it through polls these days that are instantaneous and plentiful? There are polls on mostly everything. The results, if positive, are flashed across TV. screens the moment that they are completed. There is no subject that is not tainted by polls- politics, theater, sex, sports, education, etc. We have no way of gauging the veracity of these polls. After all, who cares, if Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, or Shia LeBoeuf, is the sexiest man alive.

I have had some commune with polls. I have seen that the phrasing of the question is the end all of how people answer. With just a tiny change of focus, the question is answered in another way. Try this old saw from an old Russian story. The Czar of Russia once gave out an order to “Pardon denied, transport to Siberia!” In the transcription to the actual order to the prison, the ukase read, “Pardon, denied transport to Siberia.” Just one change in a question can change an answer.

You may be a follower of polls and surveys. I have my doubts and after the scandals with the Neilsen Ratings, I am not sure anymore. I trace my doubts back to the $64,000 question TV. show and Mr. Van Doren. Call me skeptical.

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