Opinion Polls. Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Are opinion polls the 11th plague?
What we’ve done with democracy is to assume it’s a measurement of public opinion. When I was young there was quite an argument as to whether newspapers should even publish opinion polls, because they were thought to be unscientific and probably too easy to skew. Now newspapers commission expensive opinion polls usually in concert with a television or broadcasting organization. Commission their own polls and then print their own findings as news on the front page when they’ve got nothing else to do
Polls are now the best way to influence public opinion, largely because they’re treated as oracles of the truth by most people who read them. The thing you must realize about polls is that they are not devices for measuring public opinion – they are devices for influencing it – Christopher Hitchens on Opinion Polls
Polls give an appearance of “data-driven journalism”, but they are not. They make it effortless to form an opinion with no information assembly required. They are a sort of rolling referendum and their science is not in accuracy but in giving the appearance of it.
Who has unleashed these hordes of polls and why! How are political opinion polls run, who funds them and what is happening behind the curtain?
Is this Propaganda? If I am hosting a party should I expect an uninvited attendee to announce themselves ‘I am not welcome here!”
I think this is propaganda and that this is neither good nor bad. We are wild things studied in zoos by behavioral scientists and marketers. If you read, watch television or go to the movies you are contaminated with propaganda. If you avoid those things, but your friends are of the dailies and Cable News type, then they will expose you, it is airborne. they were endless polls, almost all quite deliberately wrong. I am very familiar with the mechanics and fine print of polling, I dd the forensics on many polls and wrote about the Ohio pollster trickery here
The protagonist (one of many)
Think tanks think about getting paid. They are granted authority in Media and in dinner conversations. The Brookings Institution pounded the intellectual table in favor of the $8 billion San Francisco Shipyard project yet failed to disclose receiving some $400,000 from its developer, the Lennar Corp. Is this a conflict? Maybeeeee. Maybeeeeeee not! But, it should be repeatedly disclosed and emphasized each time the Brookings work is being cited.
When Brookings economist Robert Litan testified against a financial disclosure rule he cited his own stud in support of his testimony.
Push Polls are used to influence results. In the guise of conducting an opinion poll, participants are pushed towards a predetermined result. The push becomes evidence to support the narratives in ‘news’, Op Eds and all the rest (my slyish tribute to Gilligan’s Island)
Push Polls use loaded questions constructed on a fallacious conflation and an assertion designed to sway the respondent into answering in a particular manner.
Social norming is manipulating a false sense of consensus by suggesting that many others have already “joined” the “cause” and are happier or better off for doing so. The technique uses societal pressures to play on several basic emotional elements of human nature. It appeals to the emotional needs to fit in and belong, and, to be on the side that wins, “everyone”“we”“our”“most people” or “many” are used to imply a popularity of that usually isn’t real.
Bandwagon and inevitable-victory appeals attempt to persuade the audience to join in and take the course of action that “everyone else is taking.” Inevitable victory invites those not already on the bandwagon to join those already convinced they are on the road to certain victory. Those already or at least partially on the bandwagon are reassured that staying aboard is their best course of action.  
Join the crowd is a technique that reinforces people’s natural desire to be on the winning side. This technique is used to convince the audience that a program is an expression of an irresistible mass movement and that it is in their best interest to join.
Repetition is an idea, especially a simple slogan, that is repeated enough times, may begin to be taken as the truth. This approach works best when media sources are limited and controlled by the propagator.
Gaslighting is an avalanche of lies to render a populace powerless to resist.
Keep it fuzzy technique (my favorite!) is a device used by the media and in political rhetoric to persuade us to approve and accept something without examining any evidence.  Sloganized political discourses are coerced into the targets, leading to a loss of conceptual clarity, terms are used as if interchangeable, words and phrases jumbled by skipping over which meaning is intended at a particular time.
What if we are the Russians and they are us?
In 1951 the CIA decided to see how Voice of America radio broadcasts into Eastern Europe compared with Soviet efforts and it assessed the similarities and differences between U.S. and Soviet propaganda as essentially similar to Soviet propaganda, going so far as saying that most Americans would be surprised by the similarities between the two. The completed analytical is a list of 33 main similarities between Soviet and American propaganda, including the “impression of objectivity,” “avoiding obvious lying on tangible facts,” blurring distinctions within enemy camp,” and “not dignifying opponent’s position by quoting it.”

Leave a Reply