When it comes to politics and the media, I must admit that I find the endless referencing of public opinion polls, approval ratings, and random interviews of John and Jane Doe to be quite tiresome—mainly because I find them to be unnecessary, inaccurate, ever changing, and dubious.
Both the media and the politicians consistently try to draw conclusions from voting results and exit polls that somehow reflect the state of a party or the Nation as a whole. Perfect examples of this are today’s headlines (11/4/09) on yesterday’s gubernatorial and mayoral races. To be honest, Virginian opinions of Obama do affect my own opinions of Obama in one way or another.
First, public opinion polls can be highly dubious depending on who conducted them, and how the public was questioned, what region was polled, and how the questions were phrased. For example, consider these two questions:
Do you think gays and lesbians should have special rights?
Do you think gays and lesbian Americans should have access to the same rights and privileges that other Americans do?
That is basically the same question framed in two very different ways, and each would probably elicit different responses.
Second, other people’s opinions on candidates don’t really matter to me. I want to know the facts, and whether or not I can trust what the candidate says and does. I don’t care if Sally Jones thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Personally, I frequently find the general public to be ill informed, highly biased in one direction or another, inconsistent, and fickle. I often think that people don’t really know what they want; they often don’t look at the whole picture; they have unrealistic expectations of candidates, and a poor understanding of how politics really works (something from which the vast majority of us, including me, suffer).
Not to mention the fact that human memory (about all things, including politics) is capricious and highly subject to inaccuracies, biases, revisionism, and self-deception.
Third, a lot of what is reported as public opinion is nothing more than fabricated and strategically placed propaganda, e.g., Many people are deeply concerned about XYZ and will be voting “No” on Prop 1 because they are tired of their representative.
In many cases, these statements are simply made up by people who wish to sway public opinion, and are not based on feedback or public opinions.
So, am I being too critical and harsh here, or am I on the money? What are your opinions about public polls, opinions, trends, and statements? Do they influence your own decisions at all?