Opinion Polls

June 25, 1998

Perhaps you've heard of this new organization, "The Partnership for a Poll Free America." It sounds like a joke, and it is in part. It's the latest satire by columnist Arianna Huffington. But it's a serious attempt to ridicule the sacred cow of polling.

I bet you can remember not so long ago when political decisions were made without the help of a poll. Most politicians acted on their convictions and let polls merely refine those convictions. Today a politician will hardly give a speech or answer a question without polling data.

Look at how long it was before any Republican leader would say something publicly about the sexual allegations concerning President Clinton. He seemed too popular in the polls to criticize. Of course that then became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Well, now comes some interesting information. The 53rd annual convention of the American Association of Public Opinion Research revealed that about 66 to 67 percent of the public is refusing to answer questions of the survey researchers. That means that most surveys are only answered by about a third of the public. Maybe that's why President Clinton is still so popular in the polls.

Anyway, Arianna Huffington wants the other third of Americans to commit an act of civil disobedience and hang up on pollsters when they call. Then the surveys will represent only those people so bored that they will talk to anybody. At that point the polls will be meaningless and they won't be used anymore by politicians. Good idea. We need leaders who have a clear direction for this country, not pollsters who tell them what a minority of Americans think.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International