Earlier this year, I was listening to an NPR interview where the person being interviewed was explaining the difficulties associated with conducting political polls these days. Of course, my first thought was “then just stop trying” because I hate getting those ridiculous cold calls, not to mention robo-calls. The problems being discussed ranged from the possibility that children could be answering to the now ubiquitous issue of people keeping their phone number when they move.
My mother’s phone number hasn’t changed in 50 years, but she doesn’t even live in the same state as where that number was issued. She still might get a robo-call asking her to press 1 if you like (this guy) for State Senate.
After a few more minutes and some additional consideration, my more carefully formed second thought was “then just stop trying” because I hate getting those ridiculous cold calls, not to mention robo-calls.
I understand why a candidate would care about poll results, but I’d be skeptical of a candidate who would change his/her story based on results – oh, right, that’s all of them.
OK, I understand that. What I don’t understand is why would I care? Do people really change their opinion of a candidate because other (anonymous) people have? In my opinion, that would be dumb. It would be dumb on the surface because, for something as important as the stuff we vote for, we should make up our own minds. It would be dumber beneath the surface because we probably don’t understand the poll whose results we are reading. In the interview mentioned above, NPR Host Mara Liasson said:
“Polling has other challenges. And to be a savvy consumer of polls, like any other product, it’s important to read the fine print. Every poll includes information about how the poll was taken. How many people were surveyed? Was it a random sample? Did the questions seem fair? And, says Pew Research Center pollster Scott Keeter, was the poll conducted by human beings or a computer?”
I would submit that any person who cares enough about the political process to understand all of that stuff has probably made up their own mind as to whom to vote for. The poll-consumer’s paradox. Must be:
“I care so much about this process that I want to know how everybody thinks, but I’m not going to be influenced by others.”
This paradox is (or should be) present in other situations. One of those areas, an area where I might care but often don’t, is product reviews. That’s because I think product reviews are written by 3 kinds of people:
1) People who don’t really understand what they bought – There lots of negative reviews for a band saw that I recently purchased. It turned out to be a very well-made machine. Some of the complaints were about the lack of information in the assembly manual. If you know what a band saw does, and how a band saw works, the instructions are fine. If you don’t understand that instruction manual, then I would suggest that you shouldn’t own a band saw.
2) People who hate the product – I’m not saying they don’t have valid reasons. I just think that unhappy customers are way more likely to
write rant a review than happy customers.
3) People who can’t prioritize – One person said” “the saw itself is a drab shade of blue” What, are you putting it in your living room? Another person complained that: “The saw required two people to unpack” Did you not see that it weighs 250 lbs? By the way, when you’re pushing a thick slab of wood through that saw, you’re going to appreciate every one of those 250 pounds so maybe you fall into this category and #1 above…just sayin.
I prefer reviews that were conducted by qualified people. With respect to power tools, I like the reviews by WoodSmith Magazine because they are impartial (the magazine has no ads) and they are wood workers. If I thought there was a political analyst who was knowledgeable and impartial, I might look at their review of the candidates, but I don’t think any reporter/analyst falls into those categories.
So, for the next couple of weeks, I’ll listen to CDs instead of the radio and I’ll look at tool catalogs instead of the newspaper. Well, I’ll still read the comics.
Pictures – When I searched my Flickr stream for ‘poll’ the only result was the top picture. Apparently, I conducted a poll and my wife preferred that picture over a different one of buildings reflected in the river. I guess I am influenced by some poll results.