Pollsters and polling companies have had a rough time of it lately. Polling has never been an easy science even when technology wasn’t getting in the way. Think about it, most of these polls are done telephone style, but at the same time, fewer and fewer homes have land lines anymore as people transition to a cellular only world. Online is no good, mostly because between the time of putting something up and collecting the data it could be skewed by social media, twittering, lopsided response, false responses, hacking, etc. In a nutshell it has become more difficult to get accurate data meaning some of the sampling that gets done is naturally flawed.
Enter the Gallup poll. Gallup is one of the larger polling firms in the world. They usually conduct public opinion polls and are often referenced by most of the media as a reliable and mostly objective measurement of public opinion. But Gallup is best known for their prediction of the Presidential race in the United States, with two exceptions, Dewey-Truman in 1948 and Ford-Carter in 1976. Other than that Gallup has a pretty good track record when it comes to predicting the presidential race. Imagine the brouhaha when in April of this year Gallup had Romney leading the President by five points.
First a little background, back in 2009 a nuisance lawsuit came up from a former Gallup employee on a whistle-blower charge that Gallup was overcharging the government on polling work and using outdated methods. The suit was going nowhere. Until August 22nd of this year.
The Presidential reelection campaign accused Gallup of using out of date sampling and polling methods in a confrontation and demanded they change their methodology. Well, let us think about this. Who knows more about the process of polling, the poll takers or the political campaign manager? Of course, Gallup refused to change its methods just to suit a campaign. This is polling, not pandering.
Guess what, three months after that tense confrontation wherein the Gallup personnel felt they were being pressured, the Justice Department intervened in and joined, the lawsuit from the whistle-blower, breathing new life into a case that seemed destined for the scrap heap.
Is this how it is going to be? I understand people don’t care about polling as a large part of their daily activity, but that politicians love that stuff. So any time the party in power doesn’t love the numbers they see are they going to threaten the polling company to either get new data for them or face the wrath of those in charge. How is that part of a democracy, a representative republic works. Like the mob strong arming some business owner to pay up his protection money or face the wrath of some unnamed individual that might do him harm. If the government had been in this case from the get go, it would look completely different, but to join the lawsuit mere months after a major blow up between the two organizations?
What good does suing Gallup do for the government. If they legitimately overcharged for polling data then wouldn’t some kind of out of court agreement be the way to go with this? Obviously, this case wasn’t going very far as it had been in the works for over three years and the government showed no interest in pursuing until the argument between the campaign and the poll. This feels like the future knocking on our door, where government no longer belongs to us, answerable to us for its actions, and ultimately responsible to the will of the people. No, this is more along the lines as the beginning of a “benevolent” government who only has our best interests in mind so won’t we do what they say lest we “accidentally” get hurt or lose our business through our actions.
I’m not so sure I’m comforted by these thoughts, but what are you going to do when they start silencing the few that dare to disagree with them or show contrasting data?