Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Poll About Polls...

NHPR's "The Exchange" has a pollster on, discussing polling difficulties and methods.  Which is fine.  The show host(ess), however, is conducting "an unscientific poll about polls and pollsters (giggle)," to get people to call in.

Of what earthly use is people's opinion about polls?  How does this advance human knowledge?  Polls are clearly an inconvenience with some potential use.  How we each value the inconvenience and the use varies.  What else can be said?  It is rather like people's estimates of whether hurricanes or earthquakes are increasing or decreasing.  The estimates tell us nothing (unless, perhaps, you are doing research about perceptions.  But disasters are not prompted or prevented by public opinion.)

I am reminded of a recent heated controversy about what is discussed on sports media. Some middle-management programming-deciding guy was being interviewed.  An irate caller came on to complain that he was sick and tired of hearing about Tim Tebow, and then went on to explain - quite emphatically, I should note - how Tebow wasn't very good and isn't a legitimate NFL quarterback and we should just stop talking about him.  The programming guy laughed.  "That's what we get, all the time.  People complaining that we're talking too much about Tebow, but then going on to give their opinion.  It's like they can't stop themselves.  If we put on a show Two Guys Arguing About Tebow, everyone complains, but no one changes the channel.  People say they are tired of hearing about Tim Tebow, but they're really just tired of hearing the opposing opinion about him."

It does seem that way.  People want to make a pronouncement, have that be the final word, and then have everyone else shut up.  Well wouldn't we all?  But I couldn't even get that out of my kids after about thirteen years old.  Even though they tend to agree with me.

I have said in the past that conservatives like to make pronouncements, almost daring you to argue, and liberals like to condescend, almost daring you to risk being thought a yahoo.  As the election approaches, both groups do both.  It doesn't seem designed to provoke an actual exchange of thought, does it?

I'm sure you all agree.


Sam L. said...

I'll get back to you on that. Or, get back at you for that. If'n I can remember.

Sam L. said...

Some people like to argue, and others like to needle for reaction.

Knew a guy once who seemed to pick a target of the day and needle that person until he got a reaction. Didn't do that to me...or if he tried me, I didn't notice.