Polling. You know ‘polling’ right? It’s when someone uses science to prove an objective truth about a randomly selected group of peoples’ thoughts or behavior.
Polling is that highly unscientific (i.e. not scientific) means by which an invested group elicits data from a usually highly selected/targeted group of people so that they can form a subjective “truth” (i.e. not a truth) so that they can support a predetermined belief or to try and sway public opinion towards thought or behavior that is conducive to the aims of those using the polling.
Polling is rarely neutral, it is even more rarely objective, it certainly is never science, it is not the truth.
In a newspaper, on a scale that includes weather forecasting and horoscopes, polling sits somewhere among the adverts for how to become a millionaire if you send £100 today to buy an amazing DVD that will unlock the amazing secrets for amazing wealth.
Science (and polling is NOT science) gets a bit of a bad press for ludicrous claims it makes. That’s not usually the science making the claims, it’s invariably people grossly bending out of shape the data that scientists have gathered. Polling is the bending out shape without the hassle of using science to gather the data.
What is a poll?
Usually a series of questions answered by a group of people. What questions, which people? Who wrote the questions? Who chose the people? How did they choose the people? What were the questions? How many people? Was negative or positive polling used? Were the questions leading? Were the people selected for bias? How many of those polled feature in the results and how many were excluded? There are a million things you would need to consider if you were conducting a scientific questionnaire or interview and you would need to discuss the ethics of your undertaking and explain and demonstrate the means by which you have tried to ensure your work is ethical. Polling requires no such oversight and merrily pumps out dross all the time.
Some pollsters try to produce data to some sort of scientific standard but they are invariably still producing subjective “truth” that is determined by those commissioning the poll. Or the data just gets buried if it doesn’t produce the desired outcome for those who have commissioned it.
Polls, as reported, often make claims as to what “people” think or say but those reporting what people in polls allegedly think or say don’t present you with the data to make sense of it yourself. Why? Because you’d quickly realise that what those reporting the polling want you to take from the polling is not reliable and not the truth.