Given the current
bullshit conversation about polling, I thought it would be a good time to revisit a post of mine from a bit ago, when I was actually (really! This is a mostly true story!) contacted by a political pollster.
As you may be aware, we’re having an election over here in the U.S. in a few short weeks and according to recent polls, one guy appears to be winning and one guy appears to be losing. The guy that appears to be losing has taken to criticizing the polls when there are really a whole mess of reasons he could be losing, but hey, let’s blame the polls, why not? There’s a very good piece written over on Gallup.com explaining why the criticism of polls is all sorts of wrong and the polls are probably pretty much accurate, even if you don’t like the results. Here’s the linky link: The Recurring–and Misleading–Focus on Party Identification.
Without further ado, here is the post from August 5, 2012 My Opinion Counts!
In a previous post you can find here, I lamented the fact that I had never been polled. My luck changed yesterday when I glanced down at the caller ID on my land line and saw “Susquehanna Polling and Research” and I realized I was about to be relieved of my Saturday afternoon boredom and my polling virginity!
Based in Harrisburg, Susquehanna is a well known public opinion pollster in Pennsylvania and every four years, the political opinions of Pennsylvania voters come at a premium, as Pennsylvanian votes are apparently much more valuable than the votes of, let’s say, Californians or Texans, so I imagine the good folks at Susquehanna Polling and Research are very busy indeed. You see, Pennsylvania is a swing state (hmm, well, maybe not anymore) and I happen to live in the Philadelphia suburbs, the absolutely swingiest part of the state. And yet I had never been polled! No one had ever cared about my opinion!
Actually, they still didn’t care about my opinion, because the caller asked for my husband when I answered. I was shocked and aggrieved. What was wrong with me? The poll taker paused after I let her know my husband wasn’t home (but I was home! Here I am! Ask me! Ask me!).
“Um, are there any other registered voters in the household?” she asked cautiously.
A smile spread across my face. “Yes,” I said, nodding at the phone receiver I held in my hand. “Yes, there are. I just so happen to be a registered voter myself!”
I immediately regretted sounding so eager, afraid I would scare her off, afraid she would change her mind, thank me for my time and then hang up. Maybe her particular poll was looking for disinterested registered voters! Maybe the little script she was reading from said right there at the beginning “Hang up if the person sounds too enthusiastic at the prospect of spending twenty minutes of her life on the phone answering an endless list of questions about Mitt Romney and PA Senate District 10 and natural gas fracking.”
But she didn’t hang up. In fact, she seemed thrilled that I was willing to answer her questions, and thanked me
repeatedly. I thought it odd that she should act so grateful until I got tired of her and her survey about half way through. Would it be over soon? No, not yet, she’s asking another question. How about now? No, now we’re going to talk about the Congressional race.
And I’m sure I came across as a muddled moron because I had to keep asking her to repeat the choices she offered as my answers. “What was number two, again?” I asked, wearily lowering myself down onto the edge of the living room sofa. Once I said, “I forgot the other ones,” hoping she would just select something at random from her list and mark it down as my answer, but no, she launched again into the whole series of options available to me. “Oh, number five, I guess, ” I answered once and she politely explained that there were only four possible choices. “Number four, then?” I asked, and she was silent for a moment until I could hear the electronic click of her typing go on for long time as she (probably) recorded something negative about me in her report.
All these questions made my head swim! Did I agree strongly, agree, disagree, disagree strongly? Would I be more or less likely to vote for a candidate based on this reason? How about that reason? What about Article XIII (natural gas fracking)? What about Act 18 (voter ID)?
When she was done I wanted to ask her a whole bunch of questions, like “Who has time for this?” There I was, with nothing to do that day, and still I wanted to get off the phone with her as soon as possible. I also wanted to ask her, “Don’t you realize my answers to these questions are unreliable because I stopped listening to you five minutes ago?” But she didn’t give me the opportunity to turn the tables on her. She thanked me for my time again, and then asked me if I would like to provide an email address where they could contact me for future polling.
Without hesitation, I answered, “No.”
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