The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 6:
Beseeches the Reader—even one who
like the Author (and many Pollsters)
knows no Physics—to give brief but
careful heed to how Natural Scientists
view "Measurement."

THE LITERATURE on polling methodology, despite its enormity, contains one astonishing gap. The pollsters began and continued to measure without ever having agreed upon a concept of measurement. In physics, measurement is familiar, even essential. Physics is a quantitative science. Politics, in order to become scientific, must be quantitative. "As it was obvious that physics without measurement would be, in every sense of the word, unthinkable, it was plausibly inferred that other sciences wishing to emulate its success must also become quantitative." So the social sciences have attempted to become quantitative in a number of fields, ofttimes with what seems to me to be indifferent success. Dr. Gallup, as I have said, after boasting of being quantitative, has endeavored to become qualitative, and he has been that in his election predictions. 1 But what is measurement? My answer to this question relies on an analysis made by a physicist who was thoroughly at home in the social sciences—

____________________
1
See below, p. 131.

-52-

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