Stupid polls

According to CNN, Gallup just released a poll showing that, if he were up for election this year, George W. Bush would get creamed by a Democratic opponent. My question is: What in the name of Pete is the point of this poll?

George W. Bush isn't up for reelection this year. George W. Bush is never going to be up for election for the office of the presidency ever again. This poll is pure wankery. And not only is it asking a question that has no need to be asked, it creates a false impression.

How? For one, the poll pits the President against a Generic Democrat. Not an actual Democrat, just A Democrat. The problem is that when people hear this question, they're pitting Real Life George W. Bush against Platonic Ideal Democrat. In a real election, the Democratic candidate won't perform nearly as well as the Platonic Ideal candidate (Just as Real Life Republicans don't perform as well as Platonic Ideal Republicans). Further, Generic Democrat would not be looking so good at the end of a big election campaign. There would be mud, there would be dirt, there would be gaffes, there would be the realities of a candidate's opinions and personality that cause some people to dislike him. For purposes of this poll, George W. Bush is at the disadvantage of being a real person living in the real world and in the public eye for the last 5 years, with all the baggage that entails. Generic Democrat, being a figment of the collective imagination, doesn't have that disadvantage, and can be as clean as you'd like to imagine him.

The other glaring problem with this is that in America we don't have on-the-spot surprise elections. You don't look up one night and see a ballot on the moon, and realize that the Election Signal has gone out, and you'd better get to the polls tomorrow. If there were an election today, it would be at the tail end of about a year of campaigning and two years of positioning. As it stands, it's a year after an election, and the President doesn't have to worry about his popularity with the American People at large any longer. He's not trying to gin up his numbers, and at this point he's not even trying to keep them from slacking. So, the President is unpopular to the point of losing an election at a time when he's not trying to be popular and isn't up for election. Whoopee.

Yet this poll creates the impression that, if there were an election held this year, the President would lose. Not neccessarily. If there were elections this year, the events of the last year would have occurred much differently, or there would have been a different spin on them, or whatever, and there's no way of telling where we would be now.

This poll asks a question that doesn't need to be asked, and does it in a way that's so fundamentally flawed that it can't give a genuine answer to the question. Yet Gallup has spent their money to produce this poll and present it to the public as though it is authoritative information.

It annoys me largely because it gives false hope and is easily misinterpreted. "Oh, if only we'd had a litle more time, W would have crashed on his own and it wouldn't have mattered how bad a candidate John Kerry was," "Oh, this proves that Democrats are doing fine; we can easily coast on everyone's hatred of George W. Bush, up through the next election in which, incidentally, George W. Bush will not be on the ballot." It's not that I mind hearing good news, and likely this poll DOES show that a majority of Americans are fed up with W (which, by the way, a lot of us told them they would be a year ago, but they chose to ignore us). It's that, between the exit polls and the incumbent rules and all the other bright shiny news that promised a glorious victory for the Democrats in October of last year, I've grown rather hostile to fallacious good news.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 26, 2005 8:10 PM.

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