Monday, October 7, 2013

Are Public Opinion Polls Meaningless?

In the current political turmoil, all sides are relying more than ever on political polls to support their positions. This is called democracy. If Republicans can show that a majority of Americans oppose Obamacare, this proves that they are the good guys, just fighting for what most Americans want.

Similarly, newspaper articles and editorials invariably cite the results of opinion polls as proof of what the American people want. But isn’t it time to declare opinion polls meaningless?

I’m not talking about the oft-mentioned methodological flaws: leading questions, biased samples, and all the other gimmicks used to make sure that a survey produces the foreordained results which the interviewer is looking for.

I am talking about the fact that most people are brainwashed. Their opinions reflect what they read and what they see on television and on the Internet. That information, in turn, is formulated and paid for by the ruling plutocracy.

We hear that a majority of Americans oppose Obamacare. How surprising! For the past three years, right-wing billionaires have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars lying to the public about Obamacare. (See “Blueprint Aimed to Derail Health Act,” Sacramento Bee, Oct. 6, 2013). The Tea Party-inspired organizations that have been conducting a relentless propaganda campaign against the Affordable Care Act include the Heritage Foundation, the Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works, the Club for Growth , the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, and many others. These organizations are linked to and funded by people like the billionaire Koch brothers. The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce alone, linked to the Koch brothers, disbursed $200 million in 2012 alone! Freedom Partners is a tax-exempt “business league” with at least 200 members, each of whom pays $100,000 or more in dues.

Or take another example: The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters reports that in a recent poll, 52% of Californians opposed building the bullet train (October 6, 2013).
But there is no mystery as to why this is so. It is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pundits like Dan Walters himself have been tearing down the bullet train project for three years, incessantly telling the people that it is too expensive and that it won’t work. Then, big surprise - after bombarding the public with negative propaganda for several years, they report that the public opposes the project. How dishonest!

So that’s how it works. Hundreds of millions spent on negative propaganda, on ads, on Twitter offerings, Facebook comments, most of them distortions or outright lies. Many aimed at college campuses and other young and naive people. Editorials, articles, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal,  radio stations like Sacramento’s KFBK, carrying Rush Limbaugh and other reactionary hate-mongering propagandists.

This is what an ignorant and gullible public is exposed to. And then, when the populace has swallowed the lies and the misinformation hook, line and sinker, we call it public opinion. In fact, public opinion polls reflect two things: indoctrination and ignorance.

Conservatives will argue that the right and the left are both doing the same thing. That the people are exposed to information from all directions. There is even the long-standing myth that the media are biased towards the left.
This is hogwash. America is the most conservative country in the Western world. Only in comparison with Tea Party extremists are the main-stream media “liberal.” To CNN, “balance” consists of interviewing President Obama and Michelle Bachmann. This is nonsense, of course. To properly counterbalance someone like Michelle Bachmann, CNN would have to interview Mao Tse-Tung.

I myself am immune from the indoctrination. I get my information from a variety of sources from all parts of the political spectrum, and from a variety of international sources. I also watch Fox News and read the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I am able to distinguish between truth and lies. Most people are not. Public opinion is meaningless. leave comment here

© Tom Kando 2013