Down With Polling!

This brief squib, which needs to be followed up, began as a response to a discussion on a social media site I am better off not looking at.  The question was (more or less) disputed elections, and I opined that "Pollsters always lie, as we know, but apart from that, polling should be a major felony because it is based on the degrading fallacy that it is important to know what people want and that political--therefore social and moral--questions can be treated as a popularity contest."

This was answered politely by someone who accepted the notion that polls are often not always inaccurate, and he explained--quite truly--that they can indicate how warped the voting public has been by media disinformation.  I responded by saying:

On pollsters, I did not say pollsters were inaccurate but that they lied. I don't think the statement needs justification. Pollsters mostly work for clients, who can be candidates, parties, politically oriented movements and institutions. It is never pretended that the work is pure research. Americans sense the dishonesty, when they are approached by pollsters, which explains the so-called David Duke effect.
A good friend of mine is a survey sociologist, who has done little political polling but a lot of survey work on a variety of subjects including political attitudes. As he likes to say, polls and surveys will tell you what people say when suspicious questions start asking them leading questions. That, however, was not my point in calling for the criminalization of polling. My point was to state the obvious, that polling by its nature corrupts the commonwealth by reinforcing the delusion that we the ignorance of a real or fictive majority should answer questions like: What is the sum of two plus two? Why can't a man marry his brother or his dog? When is rioting and looting not a crime?
Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

7 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    I’ve heard the theory that the polls do their best to reflect whoever is spending the most on political ads as doing well, especially during primaries. That way it’s a mechanism to motivate candidates to keep investing millions and millions into the media, which I believe every major news organization owns some sort of polling system. If a candidate starts spending more, they magically also start going up in the polls, validating how effective all that advertising money is.

    As far as morality being conducted via polling . . . isn’t that what Twitter is for?

  2. James D. says:

    As it relates to elections or referendums, or anything involving a vote, polls are intended to demoralize and suppress any faction which is against the establishment/elite.

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    “My point was to state the obvious, that polling by its nature corrupts the commonwealth by reinforcing the delusion that we the ignorance ……..What is the sum of two plus two? Why can’t a man marry his brother or his dog? When is rioting and looting not a crime?”

    This truth is profoundly overlooked in our time. Propaganda can change human perceptions of a reality for a time (usually a short period of time) but not the reality itself. Sometimes the reaction to being deceived is humorous but sometimes it is quite violent and horrible.

  4. Joshua Smith says:

    My guess is, for a poll company, you would make the most money being able to sell your data to both sides. Finding willing participants and questioning them would be the primary cost of each iteration. So you craft your questions and the possible answers to allow interpretation such that each side can use the data how they wish from the same population.

  5. Robert Reavis says:

    Dear Joshua,
    Yes, indeed. That is the elite rule. As in selling weapons to both sides in a war, information to both sides of a political contest, advertising to both sides of competition, and promoting treasonous instigations to both countries of the dual citizen. The old Italian families called it strictly business but George Washington called it the “two political party system.”

  6. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    There is a reason why parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. Some historians date the development of the true party system not to the division between Federalists and Jeffersonians but to the creation of the caucus system by Martin van Buren.

  7. Dot says:

    Government interferes too much in the affairs of her citizens. This pandemic and the restrictions the government experts have imposed on the public has been more harmful than good. At the darkest time of year there are an increased number of suicides, cases of depression and heart related problems.
    I have to put blame on Washington because the government depends on people to spend their hard-earned dollars to keep it functioning. Always, at the end of the year, we hear how the country did economically and there are so many at this time of year, every year, who are relieved of their jobs. It usually happens in October.
    It is recommended by these experts that we celebrate Thanksgiving with only immediate family members of the household.
    Does that mean that adult members who have moved away from the home of their childhood cannot celebrate with their close relatives and parents?

    I am a family of one. I wanted Thanksgiving at my house this year because it is usually at my sons home. But it is not to be because his two daughters, who are in college, may be carriers of this virus and he is following the precepts of these experts.

    This corona virus, this invisible entity has ruled over everything, including the experts who use the advice that it is new and they are just learning about it. I’m just glad that vaccines have been developed for us although not ready for use by the general public. Pres. Trump got his wish for “warp speed” development of a vaccine. It looks like Biden wants to take the credit.

    Polls? They had a lot to do with this election. Silicon valley made sure that. Facebook and Amazon ought to be boycotted.