The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 18:
Asks whether it is in the Public Interest
to Publicize the Results of Polls, and
mentions the British Peace Ballot.

THE POLLSTERS who operate on a national scale are not content to poll and to hope that the public will not be indifferent. They insist that the polls "can function well only if their results are disseminated to every part of the country, thus stimulating a nationwide discussion of common issues and problems." I should think that a poll on Wassermann tests or on the Marshall Plan would be just as good (or bad) a poll if it were not published in the newspapers that have bought Dr. Gallup's releases. But no matter. What evidence there is, fails to show that the polls stimulate "a nationwide discussion of common issues and problems." The only poll on the polls that I have seen, disclosed a large area of ignorance. Only 56 per cent of a sample had "heard of a public opinion poll"; 9 per cent looked at the results "regularly," and 19 per cent "occasionally." Thus nearly 75 per cent of the sample either had not heard of the polls or paid no attention to them, 1

____________________
1
To be sure, 41 per cent said that the polls are "a good thing"; 32 per cent thought that the election forecasts were "pretty nearly right most of the time"; and 29 per cent had the same view of reports on such subjects as labor problems or international affairs. Only 3 per cent thought that the polls were "a bad thing."

Of the fifty-six in every one hundred who claimed to know about

-197-

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