I place no importance on “national” polls on any subject, and certainly none on “local” polls or polls conducted within certain groups, such as scientists or parents or garage mechanics, not even when a poll is “positive” on a position I think is rational or proper. They are a hybrid creature of the art of statistics. Like statistics, they can be as skewed and weighted as loaded dice or marked cards. They are as trustworthy as a roulette wheel governed by a discreetly employed, out-of-sight foot pedal. Percentages generated by polls are basically meaningless, even when they are not manipulated or tilted towards an a priori conclusion. Polls and statistics ought to be put in the same retirement home for pseudo-sciences in the company of numerology, tarot cards, horoscopes, and phrenology.
In all the years I have been writing about political campaigns, not once have I been asked for my opinion by a pollster. Not on the street, not through the mail or by phone. Nor would I participate in a poll if ever asked to participate in one.
At its very best, a poll can only indicate a prevalence, prejudice or bias in a handful of individuals for or against something. A consensus held by a minuscule number of people should not be mistaken for truth or proof or for the consensus of a far larger group of people. Yet, because so many place grave, illogical importance on the significance of polls, polls are used as tools of persuasion or dissuasion. How often has one heard during the presidential campaign that Obama has an x-point lead over McCain? What is the true significance of that statement? In fact, there is none, especially when one knows that the individuals polled represent an infinitesimal fraction of the total population.
But, then, as Ayn Rand once aptly remarked, fifty million Frenchmen can be as wrong as one. Nose-counting cannot establish metaphysical or even moral truths.
Most news anchors and other teleprompter readers know this (while reading off-screen copy written by their left-liberal news writers; the papers one sees them marking up or shuffling around are meaningless props), yet they continue to cite polls in their reportage and attach to them metaphysical authority. It allows these photogenic icons to subtly promote their own favorite candidates or positions by discouraging viewers they suspect might vote for candidates the anchors dislike.
This is not journalism; it is the art of insinuation. “Don’t bother hoping for a McCain win, because according to the latest Flugelhorn and Flummery poll Obama has a 15-point lead, and is a shoo-in come November. Unless you switch your vote to Obama, you shouldn’t even bother casting a ballot.” I say this without voicing any preference for McCain or Obama, both of whom are despicable statists who have demonstrated as much understanding of America and the principles on which it was founded as George the Third. Or George W. Bush.
I would discourage people from voting at all (as a friend once remarked to me, voting only encourages the politicians) in order to give the winner the least possible mandate to govern and intrude into one’s life. Of course, political mandates any more mean little or nothing to our elective aristocracy. I noted in “The Congressional Betrayal of America” and “America vs. Congress” that Congressmen’s phones and computers were overheating from urgent communiqués from their constituents expressing opposition to the proposed bailout. The phenomenon was noteworthy even in the news media.
For example, it prompted Fox News on October 10 to report the results of a national telephone poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corp. between October 8 and 9, in which over 50% of the 900 polled registered voters of mixed political affiliations opposed further government action on the bailout or did not think the bailout would accomplish anything more than a continuance of government screw-ups. Well, that was sorta-kinda good news, although the poll did not suggest the thinking behind the opposition. The poll also indicated that some in the news media suspected that the “necessity” of a bailout or the nationalization of the economy was not thought to be a good idea among some of the electorate.
Our elective aristocracy disagreed. It voted for the bailout.
Knowing the reasoning of the 50+% would have given Fox and me more valuable information, although it would still have remained a matter of 50 million Frenchmen vs. 900 registered voters vs.500 orangutans vs. 263 Congressmen.
That’s “democracy” in action. And you thought this was a rights-protecting republic. The last of it died on October 3, when Congress betrayed America.