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Should We Believe the Polls?


Ernest Partridge. Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers

September 16, 2008

 

If we are to believe the most recent public opinion polls, this has been a very bad week for the Obama/Biden ticket.

According to Gallup, the Democrats’ consistent eleven to fifteen point advantage since January dropped to three points this week.  Newsweek, CNN, NBC/WSJ, and CBS all report a tie.

But should we believe the most recent public opinion polls?  Today’s “dead heat” seems inconsistent with other statistics. Among them:

  • New registrations are overwhelmingly Democratic: The AP reported, just last week (September 7) that during the primary season, “more than two million Democrats [were added] to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. The Republicans have lost nearly 344 thousand voters in the same states.”
     

  • The same AP article reported that nationwide, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 42 million to 31 million.
     

  • As recently as September, Gallup reported that the Democrats had a ten percent lead in party affiliation among voters: 47% to 37%.
     

  • And 80% of the American public is “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States.” (Gallup, August 23, 2008).

And yet Gallup chooses to survey an even number of Democrats and Republicans. Why? In addition, the pollsters contact users of land-line phones and exclude cell phone users. Presumably, younger and more liberal voters are more inclined to use cell phones. Both factors would surely inflate the GOP numbers.

Moreover, some of the recent alleged shifts in public opinion strain credulity. For example, Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian notes that last week, “the ABC News-Washington Post survey ... found McCain ahead among white women by 53% to 41%. Two weeks ago [before the Democratic convention!], Obama had a 15% lead among women.”

That’s a shift of 27%. And what could account for it? We can only assume that three days of GOP bombast from Minneapolis and the introduction of a new, pretty, face, convinced a quarter of those white women voters to change their minds.

Sorry, but that’s more than I can swallow. Somehow it just doesn’t add up.

So, should we believe the polls?

Frankly, I can’t offer a simple answer. But I most assuredly have a few nagging questions.


First of all, why wouldn’t the polling organizations publish results that are as accurate as reasonably possible? After all, their reputations, and therefore their profitability, depends upon proven records of accuracy. The fate of the Literary Digest poll, which predicted the overwhelming defeat of FDR in 1936, is indelible in the institutional memory of all polling organizations. Soon after that election, the Literary Digest ceased publication.

But an “accurate prediction” of an election presupposes honest elections. Thanks to “paperless” electronic voting, on machines operating with secret software, manufactured and programmed by private firms with Republican affiliations, U.S. elections are “faith-based.”   Are our elections honest and accurate?  Unknown and unknowable. And the corporate media, both political parties, and the Congress are spectacularly uncurious and unperturbed about the insecurity of U.S. elections.

Furthermore, we now know that the corporate media print and broadcast lies (Saddam’s alleged WMDs and involvement in 9/11, Al Gore’s “invention of the internet”) and fail to report essential truths (Bush’s AWOL from the national guard, election fraud, John McCain’s involvement with embezzler Charles Keating). So why assume that the same media publishes accurate opinion polls? And if the polls are not scrupulously accurate, this does not necessarily mean that their numbers are simply “made-up” on the spot. Deliberate sampling bias will suffice to yield the “desired” results.

So might it not just be possible that the covert function of opinion polls is not to “track” public opinion or to predict the outcome of elections, but rather to validate the predetermined outcome? Likewise unknown and unknowable.

If the major national polls are “in on” another fixed election, it would not be their task to report actual public opinion. Rather it would be to publish a “prediction” close enough to the outcome to make the theft plausible. (See my “The Fix is In, Again,” and other essays on election fraud).

In the meantime, absent legal, legislative, and journalistic diligence, it is up to individual citizens and citizen organizations such as these (here, here, here, and here) to raise the question of election integrity, and to cite the abundant and growing evidence – anecdotal, circumstantial, and statistical – that during the past decade at least, the “will of the people” has not always prevailed in our national elections. As Republican Congressman Peter King carelessly blurted out on election night, 2004: “It’s all over but the counting, and we do the counting.”

Contrary to these dire, and possibly paranoid, suspicions, is this plain fact: There are numerous polling organizations, independent of each other. Some of these are affiliated with and sponsored by the Democratic Party. Thus it is highly unlikely that all of them would be complicit in a grand conspiracy to lie to the American public.

As I said at the outset, I have many questions, some suspicions, but no definitive answers.

But these are questions that all concerned citizens should be asking, even though the corporate media are not.

And if these questions indicate that the polling organizations have lost some of their former credibility, along with the media that publish them, they have only themselves to blame.
 

Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge

 


Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications

Conscience of a Progressive:  A book in progress. 

Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".   His e-mail is: gadfly@igc.org .


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances