The Results are In…Who Cares?

imageEarlier 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 imageabout 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.


  1. One of the advantages to live in California is that we don’t receive political calls to conduct poll surveys. We are all supposed to be registered Democrats. We only got loooooong recorded messages from the candidates, promoting themselves.
    I won’t comment on the band saw because I wouldn’t be able to move 250 lbs in the first place, but I will say that I like the ending of your post (about the pictures) very much. See you.


    1. Ha – We aren’t supposed to get any of those calls, except I think the politicians exempted themselves from the rules of the Do Not Call List. I’m glad you like the bit about the photos. If I can’t please everybody, I figure I should please my wife.


  2. Wait, I wasn’t done talking!

    You do snark quite well :-). And I’m glad your wrote this cathartic rant so I don’t have to.

    I think the last election proved that polls cannot be taken as accurate because landlines no longer reach the majority of people. Also if the politicians are doing unethical/illegalthings (many are), then certainly the pollsters are as well.

    What I’ve seen poll results used for isn’t as much convincing the gullible public as it is the PACS & political parties determining where to stuff their campaign money. I’ve watched several Colorado and national races where the Democrats have been pushing tv ads relentlessly for a candidate, then the poll gets released, and suddenly the money is pulled for use elsewhere.

    It reminds me of the Saturday Night “never mind” skit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sammy. It’s disheartening to think about how much money is spent chasing political office. Between the polls and the ads and the events, it makes my head hurt. Add into the mix that, as you point out, that some people are manipulating that spending, and…ugh. I wish they all had to work like normal people. “You get 2/3/4 weeks off, you decide whether you want to campaign or take your family on vacation.”

      And I miss Gilda Radner.


  3. I don’t answer my home phone unless the caller is identified as someone I know. I did, for about a year, but since we got inundated with calls for the people who used to have the number, and many calls fall through the Don’t Call list, it’s just not worth it anymore. I grew weary of being accused of secretly being Angela Johnson, and I’m pretty sure her student loan lenders are going to break her legs when they find her, so keep her in your prayers.
    Voting is important. Polls are for the birds.


    1. My wife takes that approach. I cave in and answer the garbage calls to get them to stop calling, but I hang up immediately on robo-calls and maybe a little faster on idiots. We also have collection people looking for the previous number holder and we’ve had this number for over 20 years. But, we were moved into a new area code. Thanks for the comment.


  4. Great post. Very relatable especially the product review part. I constantly write product reviews of electronics and cars that launch in the USA. Of course, I never use those products, but interestingly I don’t fit any of those 3 types unless I am instructed to be one. Apart from that I write product reviews of products that I purchase. I wrote reviews on the mobile phones that I bought in the past and surprisingly both my product reviews were voted as Review of the Day by the editors and much appreciated by the readers on I was also into movie reviews and many of my movie reviews also got great response. One thing that I realized about writing product review is that you need to keep your bias aside. I learnt it with experience. I might not like the product I bought, but I still keep it very bias-free. I don’t tell my readers what I love and what I hate. I tell them what are the features they can use. This way I try to cut down the negativity out of my reviews. It works. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now and it has worked all the time.


    1. Thdmkx Sharukh. You are a pro, even when writing personally. You have a great approach to writing a review. Most reviews are clouded with the emotional response of the person writing them. Thanks for adding your thoughts to this post.


  5. Dan, I know some politicians over here who own radio stations, TV stations, and even newspaper firms. When they conduct political polls, you can never trust the outcome, because it is always those specific politicians in the lead. Contradictions arise when different stations supported by different politicians publish their outcomes. It’s a farce! In 2007, we had a National Election and almost all the TV and Radio stations in the country were publishing different results depending on their political leader. It caused outrage countrywide, and up to now, we do not know who won the election.
    And there was a day I attended a conference for engineers in Nairobi. A certain girl in my group apparently developed an aversion for one of the speakers. She became so distressed she walked out of the hall and never returned until the man had sat back down. When later I asked her what her problem with the man had been, she said, “He talks so badly. I hate his voice.” And I wanted to ask her whether it was his voice that had taken her to the conference. But I didn’t, because that might not have been the whole truth.
    But now I’m thinking: Talk about bad reviewers!


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