07-12-02, 10:06 AM
I was watching "The Pulse" last night-mainly because nothing else was on- and I noticed that they were bombarding people with two things:
"the Arabs are a'comin"
"We need better border control"
So, ok, whatever, if that's the case or not, I'm not really here to debate. My question is whether or not polls have become sort of a political marketing ploy? That is can viewing a poll create doubt in the mind of someone if their opinion is given the minority share of the poll. conversely, can viewing a poll create strength of conviction of someone who sees their position as the majority?
Maybe it was just a bad first show. That happens sometimes, but they kept on emphasizing "Scientific" and "3% margin of error" and had what I think was supposed to be a pretty woman giving the results.
I'm interested in your opinion.
Polls have always been a 2 way street. Polls affect the politics and politics affect the polls. Of course it can be used as a propaganda. I do it all the time. If 80% of people think one way and you think another, it would put a dent in your credibility. It is actually very common practices in politics. People try to leverage off something. There is nothing more powerful than popular opinions.
I concur with Joeman. The polls have always had two main uses. to tell the politican which way to jump to have the popular vote, and to influance the public in favor of one idea over another and then get the feedback through the same method.
I'm guessing that these polls have a highly unrandomized sample, making them very much less credible.
A poll's wording can subject the pollee (sp?) to a false dichotomy, such as Do you approve the bombing of Afghanistan or are you against President Bush? Even simple yes or no questions don't always reflect the variations in quality of opinion. If the above question were asked straight as : Do you approve the bombing of Afghanistan, yes or no? This doesn't always reflect how people actually think about an issue: "Well... 9/11 was horrible, but why are innocent Afghans dying for it? I mean, do we know for sure that the Taliban had anything to do with it, and are our actions more motivated out of desire to control petroleum resources... etc." And so on. An issue is never black and white, and pollsters and politicians want to make it that way, because it's easier to galvanize a population in terms of strict ingrouping and outgrouping. In fact, much public discourse and media presentation is full of fallacious thought, perfect for the television viewing public who turn their critical facilities off and swallow video whole and react based on lower-brain emotional responses. Politicians know this, that most people are poorly trained in logical thought, and in their own rationale believe that it's for the greater good that they manipulate that weakness to lead the masses toward the "correct" stance. Various think-tanks and organizations of whatever stripe concoct a poll in a manner they think will reflect their views, limit their phone polls to areas whose demographic will most likely play out the way they think it will, call it a survey (a real scientific survey would have to pass peer review), and then publish it on the next day's pundit shows via the mouth of some professional wonk or newscaster, as long as, of course, it turned out favorably.
I don't mean to say that polls aren't useful, but they are a snapshot of opinion, and they leave little room for the concept of an ongoing process of philosophizing about a subject.
When George Bush said that his adminstration doesn't place much credence in polls, the American people should have known that was a crock, but the sleeping giant, as Bill Maher put it, just broke wind and rolled over.
I've been reading the book Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti on this subject. Orwell's 1984 is about a society whose people have been robbed of the capacity for dissent or logical thought.
John Le Coq