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IMG_2950This morning, I took a “brief” phone survey. No doubt, the “research” was politically motivated. I invite you to observe how the survey’s format manipulates sentiment to construe response data. Though it’s not important, the survey in which I partook had to do with the slashing or supporting of the Corn Ethanol Mandate.

Here is a sample of the rhetorical garbage being fed into the national conversation by spinster research organizations and disgraced pollsters. These questions are taken directly from the one way conversation I’d had this morning with the surveyor:

“Sir, please rate your general feelings on the following organizations and groups, one being that you feel very cold about the organization or group mentioned, and one-hundred representing great warmth and good feelings toward that organization or group.”

Begrudgingly, I passed through this extremely reductive exercise. Outside of any sort of context, how is one supposed to quantify his feelings on world hunger-fighting organizations, or organizations supportive of a cleaner atmosphere. Of course I want everybody to eat well. Of course I want a cleaner atmosphere. But this is merely the patois of headline hucksters. I hadn’t yet been pushed through the sharp end of their grinder:

“Sir, due to the renewable fuel standard, [so-and-so] reports that local gas stations will have to pay an additional five-thousand dollars in costs in order to [retrograde] their filling stations. This is bad for small businesses. Does this information make you feel much more negatively toward the bill, somewhat more negatively, much more positively toward the bill, or somewhat more positively?”

“Sir, due to the renewable fuel standard, [so-and-so] reports that less corn will be available for food in this country, and that school cafeterias and grocery stores will have to spend more on food, driving up prices for the consumer. Does this information make you feel much more negatively toward the bill, somewhat more negatively, much more positively toward the bill, or somewhat more positively?”

“Sir, due to the renewable fuel standard, [so-and-so] reports that increases in fuel’s ethanol content will damage engines and the component parts of automobiles, driving up costs for the consumer. Does this information make you feel much more negatively toward the bill, somewhat more negatively, much more positively toward the bill, or somewhat more positively?”

Et cetera.

During this series of questions, I leaned into him, letting him know that I was hip to his not having written the script or structured the format, but that whoever had was asking loaded questions which overtly solicited certain responses. He was a drone. We carried on:

“Sir, earlier in the survey, you rated organizations and groups between one and one-hundred. Please re-rate the following organizations and groups, in light of the new information about the potential damages caused by the renewable fuel standard.”

The attempt, again, was to back the surveyee into a corner so that the surveyor and his cartel could churn out data that supported their political agenda. If not that, then to help gather the market data needed to help its clientele pitch effective propaganda.

There is no simple comprehensive solution here. People need to stop looking at this polling data with any kind of reverence. The opinion graphs shown on MSNBC and Fox News and CNN and wherever else are not only monolithic failures to foment serious dialogue, but they retell, again and again, of the dangerous revolt against complication, context and intellectual rigor.

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