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The truth about polls.

November 16, 2017

Once in awhile, someone in the business of political polling actually slips up and tells the truth.

So it was on Wednesday, when, during one of those “expert on parade” segments on a popular business show, a former executive of a polling company said something like this:

We design our questions so they will get picked up by all the media on shows like this one.

The statement isn’t in quotes because the names are being withheld to keep you from applying your personal bias.

The person did say they didn’t doctor the answers, but obviously the way the question is designed will tend to elicit an answer that might skew the results.

For instance, the ever-popular question that goes “Are you satisfied with the way President so-and-so is doing his job?”  In this case it was President Trump.

That can be answered exactly the same by two entirely different voter demographics.

If you are for Trump, maybe you are miffed because he hasn’t completely drained the swamp yet, so you say “no.”

If you are against him, you can also answer no, because of course nothing the guy does is OK with you at the outset.

And what comes out in the poll?  Figures that say something like “59% of the people polled are not satisfied with the way the President is doing his job.”

The same “contributor” also mentioned that the more reputable polls will break the responses down by demographic and publish them, but come on, how many of you note the name of the poll and go read the whole thing?

That leaves every news outlet free to cherry-pick the figures that fit their own narrative and ignore the rest.

The justification of course is that no matter why they are unhappy, 59% don’t like something Trump (or Obama or Congress or who or whatever) is doing.

The same person also mentioned that they tend to design these polls around when something controversial is being discussed on social media.

None of this is really news.  It is obvious that there is something wrong with polls, because they are wrong so often.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing that an insider would give us a peek into the shadowy world that influences our politics.

It almost makes one want to call the person by name and pat them on the back. Almost.

Still, the next time you hear or read what “everyone” thinks about something, take it with a grain (or a ton) of salt.

From → op-ed

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