The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 9:
Raises the question of Majority Rule,
which the Pollsters assume should op-
erate Automatically, although they and
lesser Mortals live under the Consti-
tution of the United States.

AT THE CONFERENCE of the pollsters in 1947 Mr. Avery Leiserson, of the University of Chicago, made some sage observations that his fellow conferees ignored.

"There had been too much emphasis on precise measurement and too little on what public opinion really is,"
he declared. It had been too generally assumed that
"if the instrument for measuring public opinion is perfected, the answer as to what policy should be, would be provided."
He suggested that
"public opinion organizations should avoid the notion that what the public wants should be public policy. Their emphasis should be on describing what the public thinks about a problem."
1

The assumption to which Mr. Leiserson referred is a premise the pollsters do not make articulate—that if there is a majority public opinion, it should prevail, and presumably at once. They have never bothered to examine what majority rule means in the government the founding fathers proposed, which was accepted,

____________________
1
Proceedings, p. 108.

-87-

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