Opinion Polls Are Meaningless, Votes Aren’t

Over the past week since the election, I have seen a number of political blogs talking about various progressive ideas that are favored by “the majority” of the American people, and  they’ll cite various opinion polls to back that up.  Want a higher minimum wage?  Immigration reform?  Equal pay for equal work?  Those are just a few of the topics that opinion polls will tell you that a majority – sometimes a large majority – of the American people support.   It’s comforting to see, but then you have to look at the actual election results.  Republicans, who have been stridently blocking action on any of those topics, and in many cases are actively against them, just got handed a majority in the Senate and increased their existing one in the House.  There’s a reason for that:  Only about 36% of the eligible voters actually showed up.

Yes, a “majority of the minority” made that decision.   Several years ago, I pointed out the pitfalls of talking about an idea’s “popularity.”   As I said then,

It’s great that it seems to have popular support, but until you can show that on specifics, and turn that into actual legislative votes in hand, it’s simply a popularity poll.   Nice to know, but it doesn’t mean action or results.  Turning those polls into actual programs and accomplishments means a long hard slog to get them into place, and more often than not, getting it in small increments.

It also helps if you elect people who are going to do that, or at the very least, aren’t actively against you.   That means that you have to get people into the voting booth, even if they’re not “excited” or have some other sort of excuse.  I’m old enough to remember when you had to wait until you were 21 to vote.  It was a big deal for me to register and vote when I turned 18.  Looking at the turnout these days in the 18-25 age group, you wonder why they bothered to amend the Constitution.  During my childhood, the news was often of the civil rights movement, as people struggled to get access to the ballot boxes, and even killed for attempting to register voters.   These days, it’s hard to get them to show up and vote.

The problem is that most people can’t seem to understand that it’s important to vote.  If you want change, it’s the only way it happens.   I found this nice clip from Bill Maher on that subject:

In the previous post, I pointed out that I’ve had a lot of election days where I haven’t really had “a choice” as to whom I’m going to vote for.   There have been times when every candidate ran unopposed.   But I still showed up at the voting booth on election day.    These days, I actually do get a choice a lot of times, so it makes it a lot easier to show up.

You can tell me all you want about opinion polls in favor of your particular idea.    It’s comforting, I’ll admit.  But here’s the thing:  It doesn’t matter how popular it is.  What matters is how many people show up at the voting booth.   If you can’t show that it’s popular with the majority of voters who actually showed up, it’s just meaningless data.  Garbage in, garbage out.   That’s the thing that a lot of people in this country can’t seem to grasp.  You want politicians and political parties to pay attention to you?  You have to vote.  Otherwise, you don’t matter to them.  Don’t tell me how popular something is, tell me you voted and how many voters like you showed up.   Because right now, the only ones who are actually showing up to vote are the people who were against you, and you know what?  They’re going to get what they wanted.   You don’t.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Opinion Polls Are Meaningless, Votes Aren’t

  1. But, Norbrook!!! If we govern by polls, then we can cherry pick them to make our points. 🙂

  2. Cappadonna

    I hate people who go about how all politicians are corrupt so why vote and thinking sitting out election day as some sort of noble stance. Ambivalence and inaction aren’t virtues.