A Survey

My wife received a “survey” from the Republican party. Now let me make one thing clear up front. I have seen polls from Democrats that follow this same pattern. This isn’t an issue of one party or another.

This survey purports to seek the opinions of the “Neufeld Household” (though of course it is not directed to me, the registered independent) regarding a number of political issues. The questions, however, are not written to elicit information, but to charge up supporters and to raise money. Nobody writing the survey thinks anything else, I’m sure.

For example, the question on judges:

Do you believe that Barack Obama’s nominees for federal courts should be immediately and unquestionably approved for their lifetime appointments by the U. S. Senate?

Nobody (well, there may be an insane person or so) actually believes the nominees should be approved without any question. Many, however, disagree on how much scrutiny and the nature of the scrutiny. For what it’s worth, I personally think the senate is generally doing a poor job on judicial appointments. I don’t see any reason at all that ideology should not be considered when voting to confirm or not. But the arguments tend to change hands.

The subtext here is that Republican readers of the poll are expected to be annoyed at the senate’s swift approval of judges they don’t like. A similar poll question could have been written regarding some of Bush’s appointees for a Democratic survey.

But my purpose is not to discuss the various issues with regard to the senate’s responsibilities. Rather, I’d like to comment on why a “survey” such as this works at all.

The answer there is simply that too few people seriously study out the issue and thus are vulnerable to being charged up by one-liners, even in the form of a fake survey. My wife glanced through this–it was, after all, addressed to her–and simply said, “This is insulting to my intelligence.” I happen to know she would agree with the intent of a number of the questions, to the extent that one can discover such intent. It’s the form and some of the specific wording of the questions that is annoying.

Even I agree with some of the points, such as a question that asks if we have gone too far in bailing out banks, insurance companies, and the auto industry. Indeed I do. I think we went too far when we bailed out the first one. But that bailout was proposed by a Republican president. And no, Democrats should take no comfort from that fact, as they have carried this further than that Republican president proposed.

But this isn’t a survey. It doesn’t detail any kind of proposed solutions. It doesn’t discuss. It doesn’t educate. On the other hand, it works. Why? Because there are many people who don’t keep up with what is going on themselves, and don’t seriously study the issues.

I agree with my wife. The fake survey route for raising the cash is an insult to the intelligence of voters. The fact that many are not insulted simply encourages politicians to continue to play a shallow game.

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One Comment

  1. I received that survey and I threw it away. I’m disgusted that the only significant party that purports to represent my views will justify the opposing perspective that people on the right just don’t think. Well, I do think, and you are correct that surveys like that appeal to those who don’t… and then we complain. Well, on a certain level, we’ve lost the right to complain.

    On a completely different spin, the only way I see to remedy this is completely undemocratic… meaning I don’t see a solution. The founders of our country started out only allowing land-owners the right to vote. The position was rational at the time, but could not endure. Now everyone has that right, and they should. But now we’re at the point, from my perspective, where 40% (or whateve the % is) of the population can vote themselves a raise by confiscating more money from those (such as myself) who consequently have a harder time raising their own families. Should either family go hungry? I don’t see a solution to it; neither is fair. Non-thinkers with nothing will gladly take more from the haves, and non-thinkers with everything will gladly hord it all to themselves… and the thinkers on either side barely acknowledge each other’s existance.

    I’m convinced that people on the center left like you and people on the center right like me would be able to come up with more reasonable policies than a purely partisan approach from either side. An partisan solution appropriate for everyone? Alas it would take a miracle. But then, God only sees one side: His. And He calls us to do the same… and the church can’t even agree on what that means.

    Boy do we need a savior… but God knew that.

    Rant over.

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