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Deceived By Polls

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS: A Socially Speaking commentaryImage

By Perry Redd

August 15, 2012

I find it interesting that our national media inundates us with what we think, feel, believe or want. Day after day, I hear the latest polls that measure the opinion of my peers. These polls are always prefaced with the phrase, “Americans feel…”  Whether Gallup, Rasmussen, CBS, New York Times, Washington Post or ABC News, these polls have been used to drive public opinion rather than measure true popular sentiment.

The most insane among polls is anything with the FoxNews label affixed to it. I heard a recent poll televised that most Americans want the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repealed. Aside from the underlying partisan nature of the misinformation, I had to ask, “Who are they asking?”

I was in a meeting last week with 40 or so community residents in attendance.  I interrupted the meeting with a self-interested sidebar and asked aloud how many approved of the ACA?  Every hand in the room went up! Aside from the fact that the meeting was predominantly Black, I followed up by asking if FoxNews had contacted any of them for their opinion. As I suspected, no hands went up.  I begged their pardon, thanked the room for indulging me and the meeting resumed.

I find it insane that we allow polls to seep into our sub-conscious—as if they”re true. But of course, that’s the true intent of polling.  Big dollars are spent to cherry-pick participants and publish results—under “credible” names—that tell the desired story of the spender.  Of course, caveat emptor exists. “Let the buyer beware” that poll results might also motivate the opposition of a poll to galvanize opposition to the results.

Take polls on gun violence for one.  One poll said, “The Pew surveys found that although white Americans are far more likely than non-whites to back gun rights, African Americans’ support has increased by 18 points (from 17 to 35%) since 2007.” What I know is that people in my community are sick and tired of homicides. My “community” includes numbers above 800,000 people.  Within the greater—predominantly Black—Washington, DC/Prince George’s County area, most want strict gun control.  Most know someone who has been adversely affected by gun violence, including at the hands of police.  I’ve yet to meet anyone polled by FoxNews.

I find it insane that even after the horrific shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a poll was immediately published that revealed that Coloradans still overwhelmingly support pro-gun laws. What??? You’ve got to be kiddin’ me!

Maybe I am a sacrilegious non-believer who dares tread on the holy ground of the Second Amendment, but I find it insane to think that most people support the positive effects that guns are having on society (can you say Virginia Tech?).

I am also of the recalcitrant non-believers of polls that frame guns as good.  NRA lobby dollars shape public debate, not popular sentiment.  No legitimate poll would ever oppose a ban on assault weapons for public consumption.

Don’t be deceived by polls.  You’ll be expected to believe the absurdity of “the charisma gap” and among other oddities, closing between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.  I’ve had little choice in news sources of late, so I’ve read more Washington Post than is normally healthy.  The subjective anti-Obama content spread consistently through their publication’s A-section convinces me that any poll they may publish is illegitimate.  That view is compounded when the 56% of Black people in a city is rarely sought to participate in their polls, “snapshot” or otherwise.

I implore you to treat any and all polls with grand suspicion and view results with caution.  Don’t allow yourself to be tainted with the poison of special interest monies to frame your perception.


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