It’s not hard to become tired of, and angry at, the relentless dinnertime phone calls that deluge us in the weeks before an election. Family time and quiet dinners are early casualties in the election season. These hired counters don’t care who you are; they want to know what demographic you fall into and who you’re voting for.
Throw in the modern technology of the internet, social sites and twitter users, and it seems almost impossible to hide from the number-grabbers.
After the information is gathered, they race to their keyboards to see who can be first to post the results of the latest poll. What do the numbers tell us? That the pollsters are working fast and furious to report “fresh” numbers every day.
The experts, commonly referred to as “talking heads,” preach to voters about how the flow has changed from yesterday to today or how it has stayed the same. Recent media accounts report that over $2 billion will be spent on this year’s presidential election. Some of those expenses will include specially commissioned polls from private polling companies who have been paid to interrupt your dinner.
How much value does a poll have? Some of the latest poll results: CBS News has Obama up by 2 percent while the Gallup Poll has Romney up by 6 percent; Rasmussen Reports show Romney up by 4 percent and the ABC News/Washington Post poll has Obama up by 1 percent; the Washington Post/JZ Analytics count has Obama up by 3 percent and Reuters/Ipsos tracking has Romney up by 3 percent; a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has the presidential race as even. Of course, there’s the infamous margin for error that accounts for anywhere from three to six percent.
Will these numbers influence your vote? Candidates seem to think so. They spend a lot of time crowing about how the recent poll numbers show this or that, or how current polls reflect that we should be raising taxes or we should be cutting taxes.
Here is a poll question we wouldn’t mind answering: Does the government need more money or does it need to stop spending money it doesn’t have? That isn’t a Democratic or Republican question; nor is it one that is limited to the federal government. It could be asked at the state and local government levels as well. It certainly isn’t one that should be asked only at election time and the answer shouldn’t be thrown at citizens in the body of a 2,000-page budget. It should be delivered in an easy-to-understand manner by the elected officials they trust with their present and future.
Where is the plethora of poll-takers during non-election years on subjects that can actually help government officials formulate decisions in a timely manner with input from their constituents?
Many times the answer is summed up with one or two thoughts: either the high-paid pollsters can’t be thanked with campaign dollars, or if it isn’t an election year, some officials just don’t care what you think.
The only poll that really matters is the one you will step into on Nov. 6 to cast your vote.