Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Polls Rock

People occasionally complain about 'Polls-Driven Politicans' as if that's some sort of negative. I had hoped that six years of Bush, a oil-powered politician, as opposed to eight awesome years of the poll-happy Clinton would be enough to convince everyone otherwise. Oh well.

The usual refrain is that following polls inhibits creativity and a willingness to buck public opinion when it's best for the Country. World War II wasn't popular when we got into it, etc.

But that seems to overly confuse competency with direction. Direction NEEDS to be at least partially poll-driven. What is the most important issue facing the Nation? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Aren't these just the basic metrics that every President needs to have at his fingertips? To do otherwise would be like running a business without a balance sheet. You'd be living in your own vacuum, where wrong decisions are magnified by the lack of a corrective, and there is no mechanism to pull away from a bad road. Once direction is decided, with the aid of polls, it's solely the President's job to decide HOW and WHEN to fix the problem -- and that's his real job.

In conclusion, polls rock.


Thinker said...

I agree, there are legitimate uses for polls and focus groups. However, as they are all too frequently used, especially by national politicians and their consultants, they become tools in developing effective propaganda.

For example, when a President decides to push a policy on us rather than rationally persuade us of its value, his political staff runs polls and focus groups to identify just the right phrase that is most likely to manipulate public support for it. Thus we have Bush endlessly repeating that he is a war president, or pushing clear skies and social security reform. No matter what the question asked, we get these stock answers.

I guess polls are like knives, which can be used to carve, excise cancer, spread butter; or kill, blind and threaten. Likewise, polls can be used to enhance our form of government and make it function more effectively; or to help destroy it.

Paul said...

But aren't those propaganda issues sort of secondary? I mean, I figure elected officials, by their very nature, are going to tend to propaganda or pandering of one sort or another.

Bush is fundamentally incompetent as an executive - so we get a stupid war, stupid social security proposals, and so on. The crucial thing is that we still get action from him. He doesn't just repeatedly insist he's a war president - he tries to act like one, too. Similarly, Bush certainly pushes for particular policy changes on the social security front. His incompetence is what distinguishes him, not any lack of action.

Heck, I wish he did less acting.

Thinker said...

Well, it is true that the Bush administration does act; although to be honest, I don't see that Bush himself does much else than spew propaganda. And, if the public polls are to be believed (Gallup, Harris, Pew, etc.) much of the public buys the propaganda (witness the growing percentage - now at least 50% - who believe that Iraq had WMDs in 2002-03 and that Saddam was behind the 9-11 attacks) despite the fact that evidence to support it is lacking, and evidence opposing it is abundant.