Modern American Polling is Valueless

I don’t know how often I hear about “public opinion polls” on a daily basis. Let’s say a dozen on the average day. Just last night I watched The Daily Show where one of the founding tea baggers was a guest. This guy was using as a basis for claiming Obama as “tyrannical” was public opinion polls showing Americans disagreed with certain decisions. I am here to say that I don’t care what anyone says, i put ZERO stock in any modern American polling.

Just a few minutes ago, I received a phone call from some research firm out of Las Vegas. They asked me some questions. After a few minutes, it became obvious to me that the poll was being paid for by either an energy company or some form of energy industry group. The questions were stilted and skewed towards a point of view. Several questions were phrased in terms of “clean energy” rather than “renewable energy.” What I also noticed is that sometimes the positive options came first, and sometimes the negatives but the first options were always the ones that would be in the favor of an energy company. Not too subtle, dudes.

But here’s the real thing – I have not completed any form of phone poll in years. This one, like every one, I eventually hang up on when I get completely tired of them. I’m pretty sure these pollsters can’t call cell phones, and every call I’ve received has been on our land line. Just with that, the polls have already deeply self-selected for older people by virtue of 1) having land lines, 2) answering the land line and 3) actually taking the survey. At least half of the time they identify as pollsters, I hang up out of hand. Many of the times when they come in with bogus caller ID information I won’t even pick up the phone. Sometimes I’ll take part of the survey like tonight and hang up when I can no longer take having my time occupied in this mind-numbing fashion and for dubious intent. I don’t know who actually is willing to take the time to complete these surveys but whatever data can come of that is nothing I’m willing to admit as valid. If your basis for any decision making is opinion polling, I can tell you that it is full of shit.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

4 thoughts on “Modern American Polling is Valueless”

  1. Thomas says:

    You know Dave as I have heard you look for civility in interaction using the term “tea baggers” is of bad form. I don’t care if you don’t agree with their politics, but if you want to raise the level of debate and civility you may want to consider the language you use.

    Push polling has been done for decades it’s nothing new. It’s not really intended for good results there are good quality polling but major media rarely pays attention to it they prefer their own sponsored polling. Rasmussen and Zogby typically have a closer than most in terms of quality. Your areas of complaint are valid except that those older Americans are the only group that votes reliably hence why the two companies I named are more accurate. They even are looking at other methods to improve response but at the end of the day unless you are passionate about an issue most people are more likely to ignore and refuse to answer most polling.

  2. Oscar says:

    Polls are so bogus. As you say, they’re skewed to get the answers that the party sponsoring the poll wants. Always, that’s why I’ve always thought polls are a bunch of crap. The only polls you can even think about trusting are those that disclose:
    – the actual questions
    – the actual demographics
    – the sponsors of the poll
    – the duration of the poll

    Instead of just aggregates and interpretation of the questions.

  3. dave says:

    Thomas, I don’t follow you on the “tea baggers” term. I first heard about the group via news stories of people holding up tea bags to TV cameras and calling themselves such. You brand it, you buy it. I don’t know if what I got was a push poll or not. Either push poll or legitimate information gathering, I don’t believe that the current methodology actually reflects anything like true measurement of sentiment. Even so, every day we are told that “people believe X” and that we should make policy decisions based on polling data. I don’t believe it.

    Oscar, I’m with you other except that even then, I still don’t believe it. It’s “Dewey Defeats Truman” all over again except now rather than being based on ownership of phones, the skew is on who actually picks up.

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