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Friday, February 5, 2010

How Can Elected Officials Take Advantage of Polling Data?

A reader writes: “I wonder in what way you’d like elected officials to take advantage of polling data. I personally admire an elected official who is willing to do what he thinks is right even in the fact of dissent from his 'bosses' (i.e., the American people).”

Over the years, I have come to find that many people share these viewpoints. There is a great admiration among Americans for the leader who sticks to his or her beliefs regardless of what those around are saying. And for elected officials who do the same. At the same time, I am sure that most Americans recognize there is a point wherein a leader is so far out of step with the people that things move into dangerous territory. I am convinced that leaders need to tilt toward the "stay in close touch with the people" side of this continuum for a) practical reasons (if they don’t, the people will oust the leader, refuse to follow along, and so forth) and b) philosophic reasons (the collective views of the people are often as wise as, or more wise, than the views of any one person or small group of people).  
In fact, this reader goes on to say “I would rather the elected official 'take advantage' of the poll by using it to see where differences exist between the people and himself and working to come to an understanding of those differences.” That’s certainly reasonable. Had the White House and Democratic leaders early on paid somewhat closer attention to analysis and distillation of differences between the people and themselves on healthcare reform, they might well have increased their probability of getting a healthcare plan passed.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...
February 28, 2010 at 11:47 PM  

I respect your opinion, but where is this American opinion coming from? I have spoken to everyone of my friends and have made it a point to strike conversations during my daily routines with many other individuals to ask if they have been surveyed or polled in regard to the Health Care issue, and to my surprise, not a single person had been part of this process. I did this because I always hear about these polls but have never met anyone that in fact has been surveyed!
So my question is: How do you arrive at your numbers. What size is the sample you base these on?
I have become somewhat skeptical about the Gallup Polls"

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