Friday, June 14, 2013

We always lie to pollsters

Rasmussen has a poll result out today,

I am pretty sure that  the true number is underreported in this poll. There are some poll questions that have built in tendencies to underreporting. If you think the NSA is busily prying into all the data they can find on private citizens, you might think twice about saying so over the phone.

The Feds assure us that they are not listening to actual conversations (except when they do), but even if you grant that, your answers still go into the pollster's database. Where do they go from there? Does anyone know? Some people may understandably want to keep their thoughts to themselves, and say "Oh, it's likely no problem" or "I'm not sure."

Another example of a self-sinking poll number is the question of how many households in America have guns. That poll number has been dropping, causing the anti-gun contingent to crow that the number of people owning guns is declining. Instead I see a decline in the number of people telling the truth about it. That decline follows upon long attempts to demonize gun ownership and to attach penalties to minor infractions. It may also reflect increased awareness on the part of gun owners that gun theft is a widespread problem and we need to do what we can to stop it. Some people have concluded that you don't talk much about your guns, especially to strangers on the phone.  How do you know it's really Rasmussen or Gallup? It could be the Feds. It could be thieves. It could be Sarah Brady. Better if you just don't go there. At the same time that gun ownership is supposedly shrinking, gun sales and training are booming, leading to the preposterous idea that a shrinking number of gun owners have a house full of guns apiece, if you believe the results of telephone polling about gun ownership. 

About today's result from Rasmussen: I am an American. I find it difficult to square the American people I know with only 57% seeing the risk to civil liberties the NSA has created. The poll number could well be depressed if people are feeling a bit shy about discussing the problem. A part of the 14% "don't know" response could be simple evasion. "I dunno" or "I'll have to think about it" are classic American ways of not sharing your opinion. You may have an opinion, even a good hot one, but you don't want to tell it to the person you are talking to. The 30% who think there is likely no problem may be mostly sincere, but I find it hard to think that percentage is composed entirely of sincere answers. 

There is a portion of our society who feel that big government can do no wrong, always knows best and will look out for them. They have nothing to hide, thus nothing to fear, yada yada and etcetera. There is a polling block that always goes for more and bigger laws and taxes and intrusions. I have seen that block show up in polls before, and estimated its size as between 18 and 22% . That is, even the most preposterous proposals for more and bigger government and against personal liberty will draw that many approving responses. That's not a scientific result, just an off the cuff observation. 18-22% isn't 30%. If my guess about the number of Big Brother's hard core adherents is even in the right ballpark, then the 30% "no problem" response quite possibly incorporates some people who are saying the convenient thing instead of the truth. And it could be they are being smart to do so. I can at least see how they could think that they are doing the smart thing. 

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