The Lighter Side
Poll results reveal contradictions: Who pays for poll may make difference
By Frank Scott
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 5, 2007, 01:08

Recent poll results give conflicting images of the American public, sometimes causing authorities from the world of science and religion considerable confusion. But recent studies sponsored by the Center for the Study of Centers reveal that striking and even shocking differences in polling results seem to be based on who pays for the survey.

Mainstream pollsters have consistently found a liberal tendency among a majority of Americans, and this has been true during all the conservative administrations of the last 30 years. But other polls conflict with these indications of more liberal leanings, and are often in shocking contrast. While one pollster consistently found a majority supporting abortion rights, gun control, social spending and gay marriage, another poll paid for by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) revealed that 75 percent of Americans support lynching, 82 percent wish to exterminate Jews, and 98 percent support forced prayer in schools.

�Our poll was taken among the seven members of the Ku Klux Klan and the three American Nazi party officials, who also happen to be the only members, so it might seem biased � admitted a spokesperson for the SPLC, which has long maintained its funding base by sending out mailers with photos of Klansmen, Skinheads and Nazis menacingly scowling at the camera.

And while market research firms study consumers closely to learn what it is they wish to consume -- given choices presented by market research firms -- they too reveal shockingly unscientific results. Surveys for hair tonic, mouthwash and cat food, for example, always reveal a strong desire to purchase hair tonic, mouthwash and cat food. �This is scientific� said a member of the Council on Consumer Consciousness, �since we all know that Americans want to purchase hair tonic, mouthwash and cat food, especially if they have hair, bad breath and cats.�

When the techniques of pollsters are placed in the service of political campaigns, the results reached are no less unconvincing to those who do not pay for them, or confusing to those trying to understand their contradictions. In seeking to learn which candidate would win the primary, recent surveys among Democratic voters found that they support Clinton, Obama and Edwards, in that order, unless they support Obama, Edwards and Clinton in that order, or Edwards, Clinton and Obama, in that order. The other candidates don't seem to register in these polls, and the Center for the Study of Centers found, to its amazement, that this had something to do with the fact that the others did not pay for any polls. �The winner of the poll seemed to be the candidate who paid for the poll. Obama won his, Clinton won hers, and Edwards won his.� The Kucinich campaign said that it would soon have money to pay for a poll, which would reveal voter support for him and certain victory in the primaries.

Experts on scientific polling, horse race handicapping and hour-glass sand analysis were puzzled at all these conflicting results in so many different fields. This could lead to a transformation of the entire industry, beginning with the frequency of polling. National, local and state surveys are conducted every 15 minutes, on average, but that time frame could be expanded to 20 minutes. �We are dealing with a public that has a very short attention span, but we may be polling them too quickly with calls every 15 minutes. A 20-minute space between surveys could give them more time to really think about what it is they wish to purchase.�

Members of the center were pleased at the response of the industry to their critical study. The Center CEO, professor Hansel Engrtel, said, � Americans depend on poll results to know what it is they are thinking, what they believe, and most importantly, what they should be purchasing. So any changes that can make the industry perform more scientifically will be helpful to maintaining the system without threatening stability and marketing, whether of ordinary products or extraordinary products like politicians.�

Copyright � 2007 Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

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Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in the Coastal Post, a monthly publication from Marin County, California, and on numerous web sites, and on his shared blog at Contact him at

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