Thursday, September 24, 2009

The numbers do lie

This morning on Fox Opinion Channel (d.b.a. Fox News Channel) Megyn Kelly was interviewing Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen Reports concerning the latest poll suggesting 66% of our country is angry at government policies.

Because Fox has no journalistic integrity, this of course means that the majority of Americans agree with the Fox opinion, that we all are against government bailouts of the banks, against health care reform, and against the economic recovery act. Of course this is clearly ridiculous because the majority of the people I interact with on a daily basis (which is mostly those at work) have very different opinions than Fox, and yet they would fall within the 66% number.

You see, because these polls don't track the specific opinions of people, just broad categories.

This same poll shows 44% of Democrats are angry, and 90% of Republicans. Who's willing to bet the majority of Democrats actually favor health care reform, and favor enacting stricter regulation over the financial sector?

You see, I would predict the majority of Democrats are angry at their party for not having the backbone to stand up to the Republican minority and pass a strong progressive agenda without watering it down for a party who isn't going to vote for it regardless. (Example: The recovery act was mostly tax cuts, thanks to Republican pressure, yet the vast majority of Republicans didn't vote for the bill.)

I'm willing to predict the majority of Republicans are angry at their party for failing to provide leadership. They want a strong leader like they had in 1994 when the Republican minority controlled the agenda and became the majority two years later. They're angry because they are opposing the Democrats without offering an alternative. (Example: The so-called Budget To Nowhere put forth by the Republicans which contained no numbers.)

And then they point to the numbers on health care reform with "only" 43% favoring the current reform plan. I may be crazy, but I'm guessing the 43% are the more moderates, and the larger 56% number is probably split down the middle by those against any health reform, and those who want a more comprehensive package. Based on previous polls it would actually suggest the majority of those opposing the current plan actually support more government intervention in medical care, not less. The latest poll shows 78% of respondents say all Americans should have access to the same plan Congress has (a public option?).

You see, data is just data and holds no meaning or purpose behind it. It is manipulated by everyone to prove their own points, and it just leads to further argument and division. I'm not against data, I'm against the ridiculousness of so many otherwise rational people who hold so fast to their political persuasions the same way they support their favorite sports teams no matter how bad they are.

Don't go on TV and tell people what their opinion should be. Dialog and understanding needs to happen. I bet most of the polled respondents don't actually know what the legislation is, so their anger is coming from some ethereal field of battle. Can't we just talk to each other in rational, civilized ways?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I personally hate almost any use of statistics in the mainstream media.

I only took one statistics class in high school, but that was enough to show me how often statistics are misused in almost all contexts.