Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stupid Polls

There is a headline on Google news today that states "Majority Expect US Will 'Lose' in Iraq." This seems like a fairly useless piece of information to me. The majority of Americans are not military strategists. Nor do they have any qualifications that would give their judgement on the situation in Iraq any merit. In fact, the majority of Americans are uninformed and apathetic and form their opinions only on what they hear on the morning/evening news or see in newspaper headlines. So, an equal but easier and cheaper to measure statistic would be, "Majority of News Stories Indicate US Will 'Lose' in Iraq."

The Iraq statistic has at least some meaning since public opinion actually matters in a country's decision and willingness to wage and continue war. I saw a laughable statistic the other day, I don't remember the exact headline but it said that the majority of Americans believed that politics played at least some role in the attorney firing "scandal." The majority of Americans have very little facts about said affair and even less knowledge about what is acceptable or scandalous therein. Again, the story may as well have read "Majority of News Stories Implicate Inappropriate Politics in Attorney Firings."

I've talked about this before, but it still baffles me. What is it about statistics that we, as a country, find so interesting? Is it that they're easily digested and have an air of legitimacy because they require some research and math to create? Or is it just the news agencies finding a cheap way to scare up a story when they don't have one? And do the news agencies not see the irony in polling people about opinions mostly formed based on the stories published by the very same news agencies? Or are they secretly mocking the American people? Or are they geniuses and killing two birds with one stone by polling to see how effective their stories are and then playing the findings off as a relevant statistic to make another story?

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