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Commentary: Have you been polled lately?
Published on July 16, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Derrick Miller

Opinion polls mean nothing to most of us until an election season. They have been around for over 150 years in the US. For example, in 1936, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election, the polls targeted citizens from telephone books and car registrations. It was believed that this demographic were well-off Republicans, and the results favoured the other candidates. In fact, President Roosevelt won. Today, several polls have mistakenly predicted elections outcomes.

Derrick Miller holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and finance, an MBA degree in global management and a Master of Science in criminal justice leadership and management. He has been trained as US federal law enforcement officer and been a part of criminal justice field for over 14 years. He can be contacted here:
The problem with most of our opinion polls today is that they seem to be skewed towards a certain demographic. They are subjective and in disguise, driving more divide and isolation by race and social economic status. However, not all polls are bad when designed properly. Many have created major paradigm shifts and blueprints for leaders.

It has enabled some organizations to change poor practices to where a new bus route ends, and how many police officers are placed in some communities, to where new schools are built. Polls have played a role in ending wars to building new bridges. Today, some of our polls seem poorly designed, both local and global, to further create a society of them vs. us, which might satisfy our short term taste, but we will remain hungry for another 100 years to reverse a bad appetite to form a better union.

Governing with polls is nothing new. Most politicians often use them to differentiate themselves as many have reported. In May 1939, a Gallup poll put the question: “Are you in favor of Mr Winston Churchill being invited to join the Cabinet?” It was reported that about 56% agreed, and the rest is history as to his leadership.

However, when polls are being used as roadblocks to economic growth and stratification dominated by specific segmented opinions, it is problematic. Pollsters are viewed as highly intelligent individuals and groups. However, I wonder if they too doubt their own hypotheses, but refuse to reject them as the outcome agenda is more important than the numbers themselves.

Since the 1990s scholars have reported that polling has become very competitive, as more companies that are private are conducting polls today. It is a very lucrative business for any side of the political spectrum. Despite these companies, “Have you been polled today?” Alternatively, would it have made any difference since we do not even trust each other? Far too often, the sub-sets and significant areas of our society are not reflected in the final numbers. As a result, we are less gullible even when information can be vital.

Today anti-sentiments force most of us to wonder if certain zip codes, boroughs, parishes, races, cultures, and economic status are pre-requisites to be polled. In the end, we are left more isolated with more simple questions, rooted in mere divided reflections.

Slowly it seem polling has begun to diminish its own legitimacy and, if technology can track what medication families are prescribed to what they eat and buy, there is no excuse for only the gated community to have their opinions heard and often they do not share the same views.

Several telephone numbers and home addresses have been the same, and the bills are still being paid. These families have not moved, only less seen from the trees that are now overgrown once planted by their parents, and most of their friends and children are teachers, police officers, business, and civic leaders now paying new mortgages from an upgrade from the homes passed down from immigrants’ parents woven in the melting pot.

The only issue I believe could have barred several poor communities from being polled was the monopoly a local telephone company had on the community. After it was broken up, many left for a better price. My family realized that for over five years we rented a telephone that was priced at about $15. Imagine the huge savings over time and our frustration was heard loudly.

These overlooked communities are modernized and tucked away behind beautiful well-kept trees planted 40-50 years ago, as second and third generation still called home where many were not allowed to park in certain areas while paying rent by the head count each night, are now homeowners. Sure, some of the roads have not been paved in a few years, and faces are more tanned and not from the sun. However, they too have sons, uncles, fathers who have fought for the freedom most of us enjoy today.

Polls often draw attention, but is it a true reflection of our young and urban people, especially politically driven polls that should have included popular culture, and demographics engagement? Today, it seems the questions being asked are precursors embedded to create isolation, while others gain from our exodus from the process. This is not because we are uniformed; simply frustrated with pundits’ quests to expand conflicts by creating toxicity in their communities rather than eliminating the poisons.

New technology has created sophisticated graphs but, beneath the coded colours, it is not much different from a few Third World countries’ polls where local politicians themselves conduct the polls. The only samples are cash, liquor, and road projects awarded to supporters. In the end, elections are measured by the amount of people who came out for cash that ensures the minister locked up his constituency by any means necessary. It seems our modernized data are not much different, only this time technology is the distribution chain.

Polled or Polarized: Politically motivated polls seem no longer to serve as a talking point and for rigorous debate. They are being used as a weapon that has minimized progress. It now represents segment-coded words, racial epithets, and other languages that target sub-groups.

Even when the polls are generally upbeat, many in my community remain skeptical. Polls are like the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.” After several missed calls, finally, when the wolves arrived, it was often too late. We left because we have been fooled too many times, and are now rebuilding simply because we are still somewhat leery of the same stories.

Often the interpretations we brought to these numbers are different. Maybe because our own sampling can be too predictable because of our behaviour and struggle. Therefore, the initiative tends to be grouped into sublets isolated by codes. However, as these pollsters and interests groups relegate, they must recognize most of us have also sacrificed families in wars, stayed committed during slow economic times, and have made other significant contributions to the wealth of the nation.

Today, few of us attend local community meetings of concern, from where to build an offender re-entry center or mall, or about immigration issues, because polarization has already dictated decisions. Nevertheless, we had to cope and move on.

As I travel across several regions, communities are being built with themes that represent other nations left decades ago. Many residents seem to be struggling with the melting pot concept. The only times we see them on Main Street from isolation are a cultural event, and during a popular world game such as the World Cup every four years, when their ancestors’ flags drape their homes and cars: More than a game

These sub-groups now have their own schools, where over 90% still practice their parents’ customs. No, they are not terrorists, they are educated, and in high demand and part of the new world organization, but they are more divided and isolated, watching pundits exploit certain groups, which justifies their own isolation in a reversal of the melting pot. We only cross paths at the local department of motor vehicles while our leaders fight over poll numbers.

Any numbers that solve one side of the equation normally has to isolate the other. These polls might have short-term political success. However, consistently forcing a division in our society could overlook a great leader who went underground from poor governance driven by subjective and isolation polls.

One recent poll stated that President Obama is the worst since World War II. Many were quick to argue that it has little to do with race. If you live outside the political spectrum, and just happen to tune in, one might believe President Barack Obama, compared to others before him, has an outside marital affair, the unemployment rate is now 10.9%, five years after he took office, he sold arms to Iran, started two wars, gotten a personal check for freeing the terrorist from GITMO, and zero jobs were created under his leadership.

What demographic was polled and question were asked? Many in the main community have seen far more economic turmoil, both local and global, including scandals, they have better numbers, and this is why we tend simply to call it a null hypothesis.

Although one cannot conclude that all polls conducted are racially motivated, especially surrounding the first African American president, where some of our discourse already had him down 20 points just by his mere colour, while others would like to erase his history.

When variations exist with Obama’s policies, we respectfully disagree, nor do many of us have a poster of him like a teenager in love with a rock star. However, preservation of our history has to be solid. It ensures that the next generations have a sense of where we were. What good is history if it continues to repeat itself? Therefore, we must reject polarization and skewed agendas and begin to create the polls we deserve.

What would be the final poll numbers for a family or individual in war torn areas fighting over land, religious belief, or missing and exploited children and the homeless who are now under a bridge that connects working class people to the nation's capital.

Our doubts are always good in a democratic system. It allows us to continue looking for the correct answers. If you were to ask who killed John F. Kennedy, many perhaps still believe someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald 50 years later.
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