The Official Winds eNewsletter
Copyright © December 2003
Polls, Pollsters and What They Say About Us....
~written from the common sense perspective of The Winds of the Soul~
by Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.)
|I find them annoying on a number of different levels. Despite their over-reported and completely exaggerated "statistical significance" they are largely inaccurate as to specifically ascertaining anything on one level, yet, under-reported in ironically being very accurate on another.||
I have a pet peeve.... Political Polling: that overused and abusive process whereby popular opinions about everything are seemingly measured, analyzed and concluded. We are inundated with the results of some poll or another every night on the News, all with great ballyhoo and sternness, as if some great scientific discovery is being advanced.
I find them annoying on a number of different levels. Despite their over-reported and completely exaggerated "statistical significance" they are largely inaccurate as to specifically ascertaining anything on one level, yet, under-reported in ironically being very accurate on another.
First of all, to obtain "statistical significance" is simply a matter of subjecting some data ( a matrix of numbers) to a statistical procedure (an equation) with the hope that their derived values will be found within a range of yet other numbers which indicate that any sampling error has "probably" been overcome, thus giving some credence to the proposition that though only a "sampling," the overall population is being accurately represented.
Copyright © 2003 Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.). All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, including but not limited to all forms of media print, audio, electronic and video reproduction, without the prior express and specific written content of the author, except in cases of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
|First, the designing of questionnaires is a very lengthy (and boring!) process if they are to gather a significant sampling of opinions. Unfortunately, the organizations which design the polls we see on the nightly news, never go through the trouble of refining their questions so as to make them credible or consistently understandable by those taking their questionnaires to begin with. Often, multiple interpretations of each question can be ascertained, and such then skews the results, making any conclusions drawn very suspect.||
But like all computations in science, "garbage-in" simply means "garbage-out," no matter how fancy the medium of transformation (the statistical procedure or instrument employed). Most simply, no matter the resulting numbers, what they mean is largely, if not wholly, dependent upon what we started with. Having had the experience of teaching parametric and non-parametric statistics in graduate school, this inviolate truth, above all else remains with me today; a truth which is largely ignored by today's pollsters.
In the case of today's socio-political polling, the whole process is made suspect from the beginning as the way in which people are asked questions and the ways in which samples are collected have never been properly designed for a number of different reasons.
First, the designing of questionnaires is a very lengthy (and boring!) process if they are to gather a significant sampling of opinions. Unfortunately, the organizations which design the polls we see on the nightly news, never go through the trouble of refining their questions so as to make them credible or consistently understandable by those taking their questionnaires to begin with. Often, multiple interpretations of each question can be ascertained, and such then skews the results, making any conclusions drawn very suspect.
To avoid these complications, the necessary and correct procedure would entail the making of a number of questionnaires and testing them out----testing the veracity of each question, how it is interpreted and understood by respondents in the face of each and every other question asked in the sampling. Thereafter, those preliminary results are then subjected to a statistical procedure known as "factor analysis" to determine the underlying perspective or "factors" and "ideological constructs" that the questions themselves may represent. Such persnicketiness allows for more control over the instrument (the questionnaire itself) eliciting the responses, rooting-out problem questions and the like to determine if what was intentional asked was being correctly and consistently understood by the respondents. Further refinement and retesting is then necessary, repeating the whole process over and over again until all adjustments in language preferences, question ordering, logical nestings, etc. are made.
|Such solicitation is fraught with a number of limitations and difficulties. From what I can ascertain, this process of selection and response is not truly "random." Factors of availability, the personality of respondents, the phone books used, the complete demographics of cities and states sampled, etc., are never really considered. Pollsters simply don't have the time, means, or financial wherewithal to consider all these factors each and every time they take a poll.||
As you can imagine, this makes the whole process lengthy and involved, something which simply could not be done within a day or two, or even a few months for that matter. Unfortunately, the polls we see on the nightly news never go to all this trouble, so their results, despite their reporting of statistical significance of their number crunching, is never truly scientifically significant. Again, garbage-in, garbage-out.... often like a late-show monologue which offers the entertainment value of a couple of seconds.
Secondly, there is yet another unreported problem, perhaps even more important than that just discussed. For any statistical analysis to be significant or noteworthy, the means by which data (in this case: opinions) are gathered must be truly "random," so as to obviate any suggestion of bias. The whole idea of gathering data of this nature in microcosm is to attempt to successfully and accurately estimate the true nature of the real population that exists in the macrocosm. That's why they called it "sampling." Great emphasis relies upon the "sample" being a clear and true example of what the real population looks like. Yet, I question the means by which this "randomness" is being claimed and maintained by the pollsters and the media which lucratively keeps them in business.
Consider this: The sampling of opinions is gained generally over the telephone, finding numbers randomly from the telephone book and making outbound calls in order to find willing and receptive respondents. Such solicitation is fraught with a number of limitations and difficulties, including the missing samples from exclusive cell phone users and those without land-lines anymore, those that hang-up not wanting any form of solicitation, or are invasively polled when at work---which generally prove more Conservative than Liberal from the onset. From what I can ascertain, this process of selection and response is not truly "random." Factors of availability, the personality of respondents, the phone books used, the complete demographics of cities and states sampled, etc., are never really considered. Pollsters simply don't have the time, means, or financial wherewithal to consider all these factors each and every time they take a poll. The bottom line is this: resolving such complications and instituting the controls required would prove unprofitable and extensively time-consuming, especially considering the number of polls these people do in month.
But ironically, probably the most commonly overlooked and uncontrolled variable is the most important one...namely, consideration of what kind of person would demonstrate the personal inclination to disclose to a stranger on the phone in the first place! After all, "who" it is you finally ask to be a respondent will ultimately govern what responses are obtained.
It is well known that certain "types" of people will more freely and willingly disclose their opinions more than others, skewing the results always in favor of that particular personality type, or at least giving weighted advantage to their opinions above others who are discretionarily less inclined to make their opinions so public, and thus inclined to limited their availability.
We have become a population governed not by the majority, but by the whims of the minority to control the rest of us. For them, their idea of equality is always based on the measure of their unequal and prejudicial scales. Indeed, compared to the bulk of conservatives, liberals just can't resist the need for public display and recognition of things made in "their Image," "relative" as it may be!
I'm sure you can see what's coming.... It's not surprising that "liberals," because of certain predispositions existing in their personalities, are more inclined to voice their opinions than anyone else. As I've argued before, these folks are generally much more egocentric and self-absorbed than most others, and "need" to have their opinions heard, and themselves and their priorities recognized and made into policy, above the average Joe. Hence, I would venture to say that these kinds of individuals are naturally drawn to those kinds of jobs and positions that carry with it the promises of being noteworthy, high-profile and ego-inflating.
Just look today at the power of minority liberal interests in politics, the liberality of Hollywood and the media, and their insatiable need to publicize their self-absorbed point of view so as to compel and ensure dominance over the rest of us. We have become a population governed not by the majority, but by the whims of the all self-important minority and their needs to control the rest of us. For them, their idea of equality is always based on the measure of their unbalanced and prejudicial scales, and to whatever serves their personal advantage.
Indeed, compared to the bulk of conservatives, liberals just can't resist the need for public display and recognition of things made in "their Image," "relative" as it may be! In contrast, and although there are certainly gross exceptions among the bristling rigid and intransigent hiding in conservative climes, conservatives in general, though strongly motivated to publicly stand for moral values and less ashamed of same, are by nature still more reserved and less inclined to make a public display of themselves. Conservatives generally shy away from if not avoid the public espousal of their political beliefs. Indeed, most are generally respectful of another's ideological differences, whether they be political or spiritual, and rarely (though there are embarrassing exceptions of course) try to drum their ideas into the head of another.
Thus, as a whole, those participating in these polls (the respondents themselves) are generally more liberally inclined than not, since most conservatives would tend to shun the exposure to stage their ideas and feelings to complete strangers (i.e., the pollsters, especially when most are so liberally inclined in the first place). Indeed, most legitimate conservatives would not be so willingly involved. So, it shouldn't be surprising that the bulk of opinions gathered by the pollsters are largely Liberal opinions, and more often than not represent the hidden prejudices, political persuasions, and ideological inclinations of Liberals alone; even those that are willing to lie about their political preferences so as to bias conservative opinion further, these never having been adequately parsed out of the polling procedures in the first place.
This means that whatever poll we see being displayed in the news, and however entertaining it may seem, add plenty of salt.... the correct analysis only becoming available after the appropriate seasoning, if at all. In the least, polls will likely represent more liberal ideas and responses than conservative, although hardly ever will their makers ever admit or reflect such ingrained and uncontrolled sampling imbalances.
|What becomes most obvious after seeing the polls change so radically from one day to another is the fact that people don't really think about the matters before them. They are so easily swayed by media opinion and the latest political pundit they've heard, and regurgitate whatever they've last heard in a last-in---last-out sort of way. Having no real position, thus, they rarely stand for the same thing from one day to the next. This is a terrible thing to say about our population, I know, and it speaks about the dangers portending in our future.||
Nevertheless, despite these blatant inaccuracies, these polls do accurately reflect something else of considerable importance, though it is often completely unrelated to the questions asked and the statistical means to analyze the resulting data. And what could that be?
Well, have you ever noticed how the polls change so quickly, almost on a daily basis? Ever wonder why? Though sampling error and the other concerns I've already mentioned are often a part of these changes, there is even a bigger reason as to why the changes take place. Most simply, it's the result of the fickleness of those that are being polled.
What becomes most obvious after seeing the polls change so radically from one day to another is the fact that people don't really think about the matters before them----and that applies more to Liberals than Conservatives on the basis of their respective moral understanding; i.e., Liberals are generally relativists and true Conservatives are more than often not. The former are so easily swayed by media opinion and the latest political pundit they've heard, and regurgitate whatever they've last heard in a Last-in--First-out sort of way. Having no real position, they rarely stand for the same thing from one day to the next except for more excesses based on their obvious ignorance or the New York Times. This is a terrible thing to say about our population, I know, but it speaks to the liberal social dangers portending in our future.
To be sure, behind this laziness of mind, some are more concerned to being seen agreeing with the "perceived majority," or at least those opinions shouted with the most vigor, fearful of what attributions will be given to them if they disagree with anyone. Some are simply trying to guess what the pollsters may wish them to say, and respond accordingly. Others have willingly succumbed to "Liberal Relativism," finding it too hard and "less fun" to live by sound moral standards. Still others only live by the minute and think it socially unflattering to maintain any exercise of restraint or consistency of character.
But it all vividly displays a level of weak-mindedness, epidemic amongst us, and is just another indication of our society continuing on down the road to liberal decay. I submit, that you can see this undercurrent displayed in the daily changing of figures regarding the war on Iraq and the numbers measuring the President's popularity on any one day. It would be one thing if such changes could be attributed to a good and honest analysis of all the facts to be discovered, but because we see such radical shifts over time in both directions, the degree of inconsistency demonstrates margins of change that are beyond any reasonable understanding of those individuals polled, suggesting that those doing the shifting have never had the courage to take a position in the first place and simply are responding to daily currents and trends, and love the social attention they supposedly glean in the process... again drawn largely from a liberally-minded base.
|And that's one of the problems with "Relativism." All positions are "relative," allowing you to spin yourself to an impossibly unbelievable answer in a moments notice without losing a beat. But such a position is also so visionless, offering little if any leadership to the future, often being only circular in argument and closed to the outside realities of the real world.||
To be so easily influenced, one way or the other, suggests that our people don't have all their oars in the water, being subject to any current of opinion or stray influence that swirls around them. Briefly, that's one of the problems with "Relativism." You don't have to have all the oars in the water because all positions are "relative," allowing you to spin yourself to an impossibly unbelievable answer in a moment's notice without losing a beat. In fact, having a couple of lose, uncommitted oars is thought to be an advantage when everything is thought to be so relative. But such a position is also visionless and insulating, offering little if any leadership to the future---all arguments becoming circular and closed to any impact from the realities of the outside world.
When things aren't really thought about, reason and logic take second place to rumor, superstition, and despair. When thinking has become so "hard," that many now simply let others do it for them, I begin to worry about our freedoms and begin to understand why other countries are not so free. They suffer from the same epidemic, but their cases are more advanced.
So, I for one, am not particularly confident in the opinions polled that I see broadcast nightly before us from the Drive-by-Media. They neither accurately assess the entire population because of inherent, unaddressed sampling error (i.e., the embedded lure which attracts more liberal respondents than conservatives), nor do the subsequent opinions surveyed thereafter seem competent and steady enough as to render their numbers meaningful. In the end, the only thing that seems trustworthy is the unflattering fickleness documented by the respondents so polled.
This brings one to speculate about the staunchness and steadiness of liberal ideology, suggesting that it is by nature uncertain, weak, changeable, and above all else, "relative." Grounded in nothing but the thin veil of secularism humanism it mirrors the weather of New England, in that, if you don't like it, just wait a while, and like the polls, it will change soon enough.... That's not a particularly satisfying or secure foundation on which we are invited to build our future, now is it? In fact, it's kind of air-headed....
And yet, despite the sampling errors, bias and prejudice in the sampling questions, etc., the Drive-By-Media polls still "appear" capable of accurately forecasting results..., albeit, results for their own favor. Indeed, closer examination reveals that many of the polls are actual the means of spreading Liberal propaganda which, over time, is meant to discourage and suppress the vote and opinions of those that disagree with them, and thus act as a convoluted means to bring to pass their desired end. In this light, these polls are not meant to predict, but to actuate and cause the selected outcomes to occur, bringing about the behavior of others to accommodate their own willfulness.
These "polls" are not then vehicles of innocent or fair measurement, but ones which are purposely contrived to cause direction, to bring about their own self-serving ends. They end up "forecasting" that which they wish to bring about, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, the means the Drive-BY-Media uses to spread the very message they have authored.... but then slyly turn around and claim that this was public opinion and had nothing to do with themselves, cleverly hiding the fact that it was all orchestrated by their own hands.
Given the continuing climate of contention which arises, many Conservatives, lacking the backbone and stamina, give up before the fight has even begun, and simply hand the cause (i.e., an election) over to the other side, believing that their side is already lost because of the fear and lies the Liberals have successfully exploited. Conservatives, thus, unwittingly end up helping to validate and give credence to a contrived "poll" which was never fair to be begin with. Imagine that!
Such observed and documented weaknesses do not speak well for Conservatives, suggesting that many are cowardly and lack the courage to stand and be counted, so wishing to be liked by everybody and just get along in a Pollyanna, Hot-tub, sycophantically Politically Correct Christian sort of way. These particular Conservatives who demonstrate such a lack of clarity, resolve and confidence in their position about things are surely as unstable and unattractive as the Liberal mindsets of which I have been speaking elsewhere.
About the Author: Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.) is a Clinical Psychologist and Neuroscientist having been educated abroad where he completed his postgraduate studies at King’s College, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and then graduated and received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford, Oxford, England. He has been in private clinical practice and medical research for over 25 years, being active as an author, popular radio and TV personality, public speaker, and biomedical researcher. An expert in a number of fields including Forensic/Criminal Psychology, Child and Family/Relationship Psychology, and Neuropsychology. He has also served as an expert scientific advisor, product innovator and formulator, and professional consultant to the Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries. He is the author of The Winds of the Soul~Heaven’s First Voice To Us, as well as numerous other scholarly papers and works.
In a large part, I believe that when Conservatives become demonstrably weak minded and misguided about things, we can usually trace this laziness back to the organizations that have had the most influence in culturing such ill-begotten dementia. Namely, we can thank the many popular churches of our day for the dumbing down of the Conservative base, our educational institutions being complicit in the process.
But it is the modern church I blame for directly misleading the hearts of men and diluting the responsibilities and capacities of individualism and critical thinking, which until their advent, were the very backbone of Christian astuteness and long ago became the model of America's educational system. Our religious institutions, not our public educational ones, were entrusted to hold these truths to be self-evident, and protect their free exercise. To be sure, instead of aiding in the development of righteous men and women, today's churches have shamefully acted to thin-down and dilute the true Christian message in exchange for the promise of get-along congregations and a fully funded budget.
Many so called Christians (Christians In Name Only: CINOs) today are those that give up quickly in the sight of any resistance, and then blame others for their misfortunes...., and for the sake of peace, are willing to give up the freedoms and principles that made this nation great. They do so by first giving up the personal responsibilities of critical thinking, judgment, analysis, and understanding (i.e., the heart of the Faith of the Judeo-Christain experience), giving the rights of a free mind and heart over to others who now do the thinking for them.
Indeed, these scare me more than the Liberal mindsets amongst us today, for they are like reeds blowing in the wind, ships without rudders. They have strayed, and in such irresponsibility, failed the very Judeo-Christianity in which they socially clamor to define themselves, and through which feigned affiliation they so love and pompously call attention to themselves, but are in truth traitors to its very cause.
Instead, give me the philosophy of the pure Judeo-Christian mindset, even the Gospel itself, which lays out the tried and true values of having clearly defined issues of right and wrong before us, which enlists the Principles of Compassion, Flexibility, and Charity, which assumes a base of critical thinking and understanding behind one's faith, and yet is able to give a sense of order to society unparalleled by any other foundation or system of guidance, creating the most reasonable, fair and just society for all---- not by prejudice and special-interest-politicking, but by the power of goodly reason and understanding----not coached by some ill-begotten means of humanity gone astray---but by the love of God Almighty, the King of the Universe, being secured forever and guided by His Enduring Goodness.
Let this way, even His Way, be that which keep our beliefs and opinions steady and firm, being based upon His Holy Pattern, only being refined further by the correcting influences of His Holy Spirit without despair..., and let this be yet another measure of His influence within us.
Although the polls, and the Liberals and pseudo-Christians/Conservatives amongst us, may never reflect or truly understand that the underlying structures of His Word are the primary, and indeed quintessential, reasons for the laws and freedoms our nation has prosperously enjoyed all these years, I pray that our hearts will prove unchangeable and fully resolved in this regard. Let us not prove so fickle as to lose this vision that He has imparted to us through the stewardship of our forefathers.
Let us not be governed by polls and all their prejudiced improbabilities and ingrained errors..., but by Him. Certainly, this is part of what means to "keep the Faith".... And, being able to live in a nation so free as to allow such choice is a lot to be thankful for this Christmas and Holiday Season, don't you think? Surely, we must know these things thoroughly, and teach them to our children in order to keep our nation and our way of life safe from deterioration....safe from the despair and insidious infection of "Relativism" now epidemic amongst us.
Why don’t you take a moment and become part of the discussion. Share with me your perspective, questions, and comments; tell me what you think of all this by emailing me at: DrYoung@WindsoftheSoul.com.
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