Unquantified Apathy and Unpolled Topics

In an OpEd News review (10/13/08) of David W. Moore’s new book, The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls, David Swanson writes of how the longtime Gallup pollster “objects to the fact that polls are conducted and reported as if ignorance and apathy do not exist”:

Moore shows that when pollsters ask people whether they know about a topic, or whether they care if Congress acts in accordance with their wishes, the results turn out very differently from the ordinary poll that simply asks for a policy position. With the method that acknowledges indecision, you end up with a huge percentage of Americans having no opinion or not really caring. If you poll in this way you discover, for example, that a majority of Americans did not want the invasion of Iraq, a majority of Americans simply tolerated it….

Moore makes no mention of the single biggest problem with pollsters, namely that they do not poll at all on topics that are not approved by media corporations. Here’s a history of polling on the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Harris [Interactive] was among the companies that poll for money but refused to poll on this topic even if paid. While the few pollsters that did polls found high support, others declared that they would not poll on something that was not in the news. But, of course, media outlets poll on things all the time precisely in order to report on the polls and create news.

Swanson finds it “hard to say which is a bigger problem, the way polls are conducted or the way the results are reported.”

Listen to FAIR’s radio show CounterSpin: David Moore on Polling (9/5/08)