Call me a cynic, if you must, but gatherers of "Opinion Polls" can very easily influence the outcome. All they have to do is to ask the questions in a form that will produce the result desired.
Happily, though, that's true only up to a point; and in a recent poll conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington the well- tried technique came unglued. The question asked: "In general, do you have more confidence in in local, state or federal Governments?"
Notice the trick: responders were "steered" into choosing only A, B or C. The possibility of choosing D was not offered, by the question. The technique is exactly parallel to asking a victim "How would you prefer us to kill you; by hanging, by injection or by a firing squad?" The executioners do not place into his mind that there might be a fourth option, such as not being killed at all.
Well, here's what got the pollsters all discombobulated: despite that perfectly clear bit of deliberate "steering", 18% of the responders volunteered that they had "no confidence in government at any level"! The Center noted that that is one of the highest rates of unsolicited opinion they had ever seen in any poll of any kind; those they questioned thought, to that extent, and refused to take any of the options offered. It's a fair inference that this was an issue about which they felt very strongly.
Now, just imagine what that 18% might have been if the question had been phrased so as to include the option of "none of the above"!! Do I hear 25%? 30%? 40%? - yes, I do. Today, despite the deafening silence of the media regarding any alternative to goverenment roughly as we know it today, I do hear 30% to 40% of the people expressing opinions consistent with getting the lot of them right off our backs, as the parasites they truly are. And I think that's exactly why the pollsters are so scared of asking the question. If they published what ordinary people really think, instead of what they have been taught to think, the world as they know it would start to fall apart. Washington, DC, would become a ghost town and the symbolic gold atop all those State Capitol domes would get melted down and returned to Us the People.
I'm not a "surfer", yet, so I can say freely that the tens of millions of Americans who converse frequently on the computerized community called the Net are probably the brightest and smartest in the population; what Net people think today, in all likelihood the Nation will think tomorrow. And not long ago CNN did a poll of Net users, inviting a three-way opinion choice: Clinton, Dole, or Browne.
Browne? - yes, Browne. He is the Third Party Candidate the other two dare not mention, with scores of millions of dollars' worth of valuable assistance from their friends in the major media who keep likewise silent about Harry Browne, so that most people will not know he is the Libertarian running for President.
But the Net is fast becoming a major medium happily outside the control of the Rs and Ds and all their pro-government friends, and so more accurately represents The People as we are. And what do you know, Harry Browne WON that poll by a substantial margin. Despite the near-complete absence of supporting information in the other media, Netters looked at Browne's home page and that of his rivals, and 36% of them - a plurality - named him favorite.
The Rs and the Ds
The biggest losers of these startling public opinion polls will be the Republican and Democrat Parties, and hopefully quite soon. Both of them have, for 140 years and 180 years respectively, held a vice-grip on the governance of this country, and neither is recognizable by the principles under which it was established. Their time is long gone; the only question is how long it will take to get rid of the corpses.
The difference between them is, in George Wallace's famous words, "not worth a dime"; and one of the many things upon which they most heartily agree is that government at all levels should control about 45% of everything We the People produce, plus (D) or minus (R) a smidgin or two.
Recall that interminable "Budget Battle" a few months ago? - the whole "quarrel", believe it or not, was about whether to steal from us 11 trillion dollars in the next few years, or 11.2 trillion. And now we have this unsolicited opinion, from Mr and Mrs America whether Black or White, that 18% of us don't trust government at any level, in any place. That opinion strikes directly at the root of the power base of both. And the CNN/Time Poll on the Net, composed of people who are the opinion leaders of the next generation, indicates that it will be the Libertarians who take their places. About time.
Habit is a terribly powerful thing. A few days ago I spent some time again at a country fair, collecting opinions by means of a little questionnaire, and plotting the results on a chart visible to passers-by. The questions are designed to show where the person fits among five caterogies: Conservative, Authoritarian, Liberal, Libertarian or Centrist. Rather often, people are quite surprised where their answers show them to be!
Respondents at the Fair ended up all over the chart, of course, but we found - again and again - that very few are Conservative, Liberal or Authoritarian; around 80% of everyone is either Centrist or Libertarian - as revealed by the opinions they just expressed in their answers. But then, sometimes, comes the moment of confusion.
An example comes to mind: a gentleman had just showed by his answers to the questions that he was clearly in the Libertarian segment, but could not grasp the fact. "But", he said, bewilderment written all over, "I'm a registered Republican!" Exactly so. It's time to change that, and vote the way we believe.
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 170
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