The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 7:
Charges the Pollsters with deliberately
misconceiving the nature of our Form
of Government and assuming that we
should want to Govern ourselves in a
National Town Meeting.

SAVE FOR OCCASIONAL QUESTIONS to respondents on how intense they want their yeses and noes to be understood, the pollsters have paid almost no attention to the matters I have thus far discussed. Apart from quoting Bryce on the desirability of always knowing what public opinion is, they have not examined and agreed on what they seek to measure, although, as will appear later, their labors on methods of sampling and so on have been Herculean. Why have they been guilty of such omissions? One reason, I suggest, is that they purposely misconceive the nature of the governmental arrangements under which we live. Dr. Gallup wishes his polls to enable the United States to become a mammoth town meeting in which yeses and noes will suffice. He assumes that this can happen and that it will be desirable. Fortunately both assumptions are wrong.

Two thousand years ago Aristotle, in a frequently quoted passage, stated a norm that should limit the size of a city-state.

"A very great multitude,"
he de

-65-

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