The problems with polls

In America we are obsessed with information, add this to our short attention span and instant gratification complexes and you have a recipe for disaster concerning how the government runs.  I am not suggesting polls are irrelevant or useless, on the contrary they are a valuable GUIDE and tool in seeing how the public PRECEIVES the affairs of the country.  Ever since George H. Bush the government has shifted away from polls as tolls and into the territory of astrological advisors.  "Oh, you dropped 3 points in the polls, the top issue is the economy… summon the business committees and invite the fortune 100 CEO’s to a working lunch to regain the edge on this measure!" For the last 16 years polls have become an integral component of decision making, not a voice to listen to in order to see how to deliver the message. 

Polls are NON-SCIENTIFIC surveys without the appropriate guidelines and measures in place to make them revenant, accurate, or a good enough concessions to base the decisions of a nation on.  Even Gallup for all its efforts can not stand up to the emphatically and empirical pains scientific surveys go through in order to find the real truth behind the phenomena they are investigating. 

Opinion polls are ripe with biased and agenda.  I am confident Gallup takes the time to train their poll takes and design their polls in a way they removes as much bias as possible.  Consider this though… In order to get a sample of public opinion and to do it in our hyper-speed information age reality we have to have something that is quick and simple.  This leads to multiple choice closed ended answers to a series of questions.  Fill in the bubbles to these 10 questing and you can get back to your lives in 15 minutes or less.  See the problem here?  With issues as complex as Iraq, terrorism, immigration, the economy, etc. summing up your views in 4 or 5 multiples choice questions is a huge injustice.  All of us have opinions, and some are similar, but my conservative views are not the same as my conservative friends, co-workers, or family members.  Each of us uses the information we have, the evidence we collect from our senses and observations and then formulate our views on the issue and the world from it.  It is a very complex equation, more so for the people who will take the time to read articles, watch the news programs (NOT just the news), read opinion pieces from multiple sides, and finally looking at the facts.  People who watch the news, listen to only like minded opinions, and read only tabloid headlines or news headline summaries have less complex equations to their views and are more susceptible to biases and steering by organizations with hidden agendas and ulterior motives.

This being said I think this is a good time to show you some of the information on the Gallup site’s Top Ten Issues.
# 10.  OPINION:  The Federal Deficit: Least important after being #1 just 10 years ago, 75% of the people believe President Bush will not be able to  reduce the deficit in his second term (Under President Clinton we had a huge Federal Surplus).
# 10. FACT:  The national debt and federal deficit are very separate and different things.  Debt is what the government owes us from burrowing against taxes received each year.  Deficit is the total amount of money the has burrowed above the taxes taken in and added to the previous months total or interest.  The National debt has never went down, even in the years of a federal surplus.  In 1987 the debt was $2.35 Trillion.  In 2000 the debt was $5.67 Trillion.  In 2006 the debt was $8.5 Trillion.  Under Clinton the debt rose $1.46 Trillion from 1992 to 1998.  Under Bush W. the debt rose $2.83 from 2000 to 2006, roughly the same time frame.  In the gap 1999 to 2000, when we had a surplus, the debit increased $17.90 Billion, this is the annual interest alone.  This was cited by the Federal Treasury as a accumulation to the end of the arms race, increased social security tax increases, business tax on the booming tech sector, and other tax increases of the era.  Calculating deficit is very hard and complex, trust me.  On this I have found the Monthly Treasury Statement found on the Financial Management Service website.  The data is summarized as "Summarizes the financial activities of the federal government and off-budget federal entities in accordance with the Budget of the U.S. Government."  This is confusing and hard to quantify.  So when asked about the deficit most people only know of the debt, around $8.7 Trillion now.  The deficit was last reported at $64,610 (?)Million or Billion(?) for the month of month of August 2006, their latest figure.  Bush Sr. averaged a deficit of $18,778 what ever.  Clinton averaged only $5,483 what every.  Current Bush averaged $14,800 what ever.  Bush holds the lowest figure, $-189,794 in April 2001 and the highest figure, $119,199 in February 2006.  There have been 94 negative deficit months since October 1980, and August 2006.  There have been 217 positive deficit months during this same time frame.  Both Bush #2 and Clinton have had 32 total negative deficit months as of August 2006.  So you can see how this question can be miss leading and miss represented.  Don’t worry the rest of the questions are not this lengthy to explain or follow.  This is a voter EDUCATION ISSUE, learn more and complain about the right things!
#  9.  OPINION:  Fixing Government Itself:  With the job approval rating for Congress the lowest in 10 years and being rocked by numerous high profile scandals and ethical lapses there is no reason for the rating to be higher, its around the mid-20% now but climbing quickly on the news trumpeting the progress and tone this Congress is taking.  Why this #9 on the list is a mystery, as it was #2 on voter’s minds, only behind the war in Iraq, during the 2006 elections a few months back!  50% say as many are corrupt as are not.  Democrats are seen as only a few percentage points above republicans on corruption issues with a majority stating that corruption and ethics are out of control.  Here is the kicker: "The majority of Americans believe Congress would do a better job if it paid more attention to public opinion and less attention to Congress members’ own personal views." 
#  9.  FACT:  NOTE TO THE PEOPLE… This DOES not mean reading polls and then acting.  It means getting out of Washington D.C. once a month and talking to the people WHO elected you and disclosing who is lobbying you to them and what your agenda is and what their concerns are!  Email, phone calls, faxes… they are all nice and convenient as are opinion polls, but they do not get down to the specifics or the real issues at the deck plate level, for that you have to go down into the bilges and talk to the snipes and get dirty… no way around that!  See not so long winded here!  This is a LEADERSHIP and VOTER ISSUE, stop pork project, be ethical, voters… complain and RECALL the corrupt officials!
#  8.  OPINION:  Social Security:  Most people think the system will run out of money soon and many younger people, like myself believe we will never see a cent from the system.  Everyone is in favor of reform, particularly for richer Americans, but opposed to wider ranged reforms… like raising taxes. 
#  8.  FACT:  This is a leadership issue.  People want a solution but can’t make up their minds.  This is why the Congress get paid tax payer’s money as salary.  Get off your collective arses and go home and find out what your people want and discuss how to get there with them THEN take this information back to D.C. and go to the SSI committee and draft a resolution and THEN present it to the President along with your reasons and support of it and go from there.  This Presidential solution and Congress solution are not going to work because neither side has all the people’s inputs as what they are willing to accept.  Experts have an agenda, usually matching the governing body asking for their opinion on the matter so their solution is biased and who knows what the public will think of it.  Lead by researching the matter on all levels, formulating a plan, getting enough support to sell it to the voters, publicize it, campaign on it, and then PASS IT! 
This is a LEADERSHIP ISSUE, get out there and earn your pay!
#  7.  OPINION:  Education:  People feel better about the state of their local schools then the state of our national schools.  People want better teachers, funding, and curriculum.  They want more control of their school systems.  Half of the people are not aware of the federal policies in place to improve the schools.  They want low-income day care, charter schools, and longer school days.
#  7.  FACT:  Notice something missing from all this?  I do, and I will share it… it is basically HOW are you going to do this?  RAISING LOCAL TAXES.  While everyone has ideas on how to fix this, no one has ideas on how to fund it.  They want local control and governance of their schools yet less federal involvement?  That means local funding and local teacher standards or approval and little to no standards for grading teachers, schools, districts, states, regions, or the nation as to performance, stance, and who needs more help and who is doing the job and making the advances everyone needs to look at adopting.  You CAN NOT have it both ways.  There is give and take here.  We need the standards and scoring system to know where we stand and where the base line is and who is passing and who is failing.  STOP trying to put political correctness into the school standards and curriculum.  DO NOT dumb down the subjects for the sake of graduating more ethnic groups, this hurts everyone in the long run… mainly the kids!  In Southeastern Wisconsin nearly every tax referendum brought before the tax payers by the school boards is voted DOWN, the people do not want the higher property and or income taxes.  So where is the school supposed to get the money to make all these wonderful things happen???  Add this to school board corruption, New Berlin built 2 new schools and renovated 3 without raising taxes, while Brookfield, across the interstate, is proposing a $10 Million increase to resonate just 2 schools… that’s right renovate and no new construction!  This is a voter EDUCATION ISSUE.  If you want more, suck it up and pay for it or hold the board accountable and make them do so and accept their decisions (like canceling sports for 1 year to pay for books)!
#  6.  OPINION:  Healthcare:  Listed as one of the "top domestic" concerns it is funny it is ranked 6 out of 10.  Being listed as one of the top economic problems for the country and for families and ranks higher then cancer as a concern!  NO ONE is clear on how to fix this!  From tax deductions for businesses to more lower-income programs, lower the Medicare age to 55, uninsured tax deductions, making a law requiring businesses to give coverage to employees, and others.  See people want something, but they don’t know exactly what.  Wow another golden leadership opportunity sitting there.  One thing is for sure… Americans DO NOT want a national or nationally run health care system… hear then candidate Clinton!
#  6.  FACT:  Healthcare is out of control in America for many reasons.  Listing them all will take too much time, here are the largest ones: cost of medical school, malpractice insurance, insurance companies negotiating with hospitals and doctors, HMO’s, drug costs, hospital administration costs, medical equipment costs, lawsuits and class action lawsuits, greed, corruption, the status quo, and our willingness to just say "well what are you going to do, you have to pay what they tell you".  Simply this is our own fault for letting it get this way.  We never complained to the colleges, doctors, hospitals, drug companies, insurance companies, lawyers for their justifications behind the fees and charges and explanations as to what makes this treatment cost this.  Medical billing is vague and complex, and it is so for a reason.  It is a business and it is vital and a cash cow for all these businesses.  ALL of these are BUSINESSES, and they are in business why??? To make money and profit for stake and share holders!  This is a social problem as much as a governance problem.  It has gotten so complex and out of control the only way to fix it is to leverage the power of the government now.  This is a LEADERSHIP ISSUE, the people are crying for help.  Talk to all the players and see how they can cut costs and lower the price people pay.  If they are unwilling to play ball, well you are the government.  Look up the constituently of the matter and start passing legislation regulating the fees medical schools charge, hospital admin departments bill and run operations, insurance companies deal with drug companies and hospitals, lawsuits and class action suits, and equipment manufactures costs.  They are businesses looking to make a profit, they have just snowballed the process to crisis levels now!
#  5.  OPINION:  Illegal Immigration:  Previously #4 everyone says it is important.  The vast majority wants to see the immigration levels increased many are spilt between keeping them where they are and decreasing them.  Many Americans want to slow the flow if illegal’s and 60% want a plan that will allow those here to become citizens if they follow some rules and wait some time, only 16% want deportation.  While many believe they are a drain on the taxed services part of the community, they state they are a positive contribution to the labor force.
#  5.  FACT:  Again we have an issue but no one knows how to deal with it.  This is much easier to solve then one may think.  Do we need 10 meter high walls like France has to keep people out?  Not really.  We do need ways to stem the flow in from Mexico, the gulf coast, container vessels, charter flights, etc.  This is partially a National Security issue in a post 9/11 landscape, but as I said it is easier to deal with.  Not all 50 states have a large issue with illegal’s.  The border states hold the most pressure, some interior states do too, but mainly because that is where the immigration goes after they get in.  The strain on tax payers in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, New York, Illinois is much greater on schools, hospitals, housing, emergency services, law enforcement, etc due to there being more people then the Census Bureau has as this is how funds get split and decisions on levels of resources are made.  This is a LEADERSHIP ISSUE, go out and talk with the border states, see what has to be done to stem the flow.  Talk to the interior states with high occurrences of illegal immigrants and see what they need done.  Take the two together and BAM you have a policy to take before the committees and hammer into a way to fix the issue.  Again, leadership needs to talk to governors, law enforcement, ranchers, facility owners, local citizens, employers, and tax based services to get all the info you need to make a good law. 
#  4.  OPINION:  Energy:  People relate gas pump prices to this issue.  How stupid is this?!!  The price of a gallon of gas has such a small impact on our national energy policies this is a joke.  See what I mean about polls here people!  This is a question which requires so much more then what gas and sweet crude are trading for today.  Poll opinions site approval of drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Preserve, despite the fact people say it will only yield enough oil to supply a small portion of daily consumption in this country.  With oil industry approval ratings in the crapper, the most negative rating of 25 US business and industries in 2006, the opinion of passing legislation to control and regulate the industry have wide approval.  On the more comprehensive views of those with enough knowledge to talk about it, they want better emissions controls, limits on greenhouse gasses, alternative auto fuel sources, and only a small amount considering nuclear energy. 
#  4.  FACT:  This concern is dropping because the price of gas is dropping, too sad.  Our energy policy goes beyond oil drilling and refinery operations and strategic reserves.  It involves, among other things, day light savings time, the number of refineries, power plants, regulation of pollutants, disposal of hazardous waste for nuclear plants, alternative fuel sources, technological to improve emissions for coal, gas, industry plants along with autos and greenhouse emitters.  Our energy policy dictates what the minimum MPG of our vehicles is.  Our energy policy dictates the infrastructure of our power grids and requirements and standards for it.  This is so beyond the gas pump prices it is not funny.  Yet people are too lazy to learn about what it is they shoot their mouths out about.  This is a voter EDUCATION ISSUE.  Get out there, learn the policies and highlights, ask your representatives their stances, challenge them, try to intimidate them, ask questions, make demands, just don’t cry and complain about gas being over $2.25 per gallon while you drive 2 SUV’s and air condition your house to 72 degrees or less for 3 months in the summer.
#  3.  OPINION:  The Economy:  Hey this is a domestic issue too!  So if the others were all top ranked domestic issues, lets take a gander, yep 8 out of 10 issues are domestic, from 3 to 10…. ok back to the poll results.  Again the importance of this issue with the people polled dropped in late 2006 because of GAS prices!  Give me a break!  People all agree they are not getting paid enough, big duh there… who is willing to ADMIT they get paid enough or too much???  Next is American claim they have too much debt.  How is this the government’s fault?  PERSONAL FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY people… learn it, live it, love it!  Rising costs, inflation (what??? hasn’t inflation been in check for the last 12 years thanks to Mr. Greenspan?), college costs, retirement short falls, high home ownership costs are all in the complaint section of how the economy is bad… in other words, people are living beyond their means and the business sector is more then willing to charge what people are willing to pay for item X.  Tax cuts are not a realistic issue to solve the problem in many peoples opinions.  They are in favor of regulating and taxing big business more (how does this lower prices and raise incomes?).
#  3.  FACT:  Again people show their ignorance and the politicians see this as a sign to sit back and make only token fixes to look like they care at election time.  This is a voter EDUCATION ISSUE.  The economy is directly tied to our wages, our financial spending and savings, and our acceptance of the market prices for goods and services.  Unfortunately the largest problem with the economy is this: Keeping up with the Jones’!  We live beyond our means and spend what we do not have, save little to nothing, get hammered with medical costs because we do not question them, accept college tuition instead of holding regencies and board accountable for college finances and governances, etc.  We are a nation of acceptors.  We believe what anyone tells us because we feel they are the experts and know more then we do.  If you know a doctors visit was $25 dollars 10 years ago and it is $85 dollars now… why do you not question it?  Why do you not go to the doctor and complain, don’t use the HMO or group plan get in the way.  Demand a feasible explanation ON PAPER that justifies the increase.  If it jives, then well ok, if not then you have your answer… your doctor is a crook and therefore a bad person to intrust your health and well being on.  What is the harm, afraid of the truth?  Not enough time?  Well, if your personal expenses are not important enough to ask the people you give your money to each month then it sure as hell isn’t important enough to ask your government to fix.  Supply and demand, research it.  BBB, FTC, learn about them and use them.  Does the government raise your pay?  Only if you make minimum wage and then it will be 2 years before you see all of it.  What do you think happens when the minimum wages goes up?  That’s right prices for goods and services will begin to go up because of why, higher demand… market economics dictate that if people have more money then you can raise your prices accordingly… this is called inflation, learn it because it will happen very soon thanks to you know who.  If you feel you need more money… get that MBA, brown nose the boss, stop looking at kiddie porn on the Internet and focus on that important project, take internal training, impress leadership, make yourself know… then demand a raise!  That is the only way you will get more.  Oh, and stop buying everything on credit, living beyond your means, buying more then you need, and aggressively save, so college, hospitals, emergencies will not put you living paycheck to paycheck.
#  2.  OPINION:  Terrorism and National Security:  Everyone hates the war and wants a full surrender and pullout, or according to the news media that is what they want.  The polls show while important, only 10% to 15% say this is important or pressing enough for Congress to deal with?  Anyone else confused.  Our first international policy issue and ranked #2!  Americans are tolerant to the Patriot Act and few feel it goes too far, the majority feel it is good enough or needs to go further!  I never remember the liberal press reporting this!  We don’t like torturing suspect or assignation heads of states, rightfully so.  We want the CIA to obey the Geneva convention (FACT:  this paper only covers standing uniformed military personal of an internationally recognized or otherwise legitimate force.  Not a militia, terror cell, or bunch or wack jobs like the terrorists in the Middle East.)  Most American want Gitmo in Cuba to stay open and approve of how we treat the prisoners there.  Most American favor the wiretapping of calls without a court order (contrary to the liberal presses campaign against this practice), and finally few people can tie Iraq and terrorism together.
#  2.  FACT:  We are freaked out over terrorism.  The terrorists have won by this being the # 2 agenda item yet beyond the ranking there is little to suggest why it is #2.  We know people want to kill us, we know they can do it, we do not feel safe.  That is what this # 2 issue states.  We accept the Patriot Act and measures the Bush administration is taking to protect us and feel there could be more to do and they want it done yesterday.  Have we been attacked by terrorist since 2001?  Not in America.  Yes we continue to have our embassies bombed, military forces attacked, and citizens kidnapped or killed by terrorist, but that has been going on since before I could remember.  We live in a world where desperate people trying to find a voice to air their grievances or push an agenda will do anything to get press time and world attention.  This is a media whipped up pseudo response.  We are scared because we are told to be scared.  This news generates huge rating because it affects all of us and the nature of its sneakiness makes us pay attention.  What else can our government do to keep us safe?  What laws get passed to prevent another attack?  How do we shape this international policy of protection?  Well, civics class tells us the executive branch makes foreign policy, the legislative branch ratifies or rejects it.  This is a voter EDUCATION ISSUE.  Tell the president what you want him to do, how you can sleep better at night and then tell your representatives to ratify the points when they get to them!  Like it or hate it, this is too broad and complex to deal with because it is mostly what if situations and how to prevent them.
#  1.  Opinion:  The war in Iraq:  This has everyone’s attention and rightly so.  When we are at war it is a national issue of the highest importance.  This has been the # 1 issue since March 2004, almost 3 years now.  Public opinion is against the war, a "mistake" and it is "going badly".  A majority "favor the eventual withdrawal of troops.."  This is the problem with polls here!  Of course we are going to withdrawal our troops!  This is not a North/South Korea DMZ type situation.  No one in government has ever said this was a permanent military operation, just that it would last as long as it takes.  This is a polarizing issue and people can not agree on how to end the war.
#  1.  FACT:  This is a media polarizing popularity contest.  Everyone knows the war is not going well, Bush admitted it.  Everyone knows we are getting sick of it and want it over, ok 2 points.  Yes it was started over false pretenses, 3 points.  Guess what… War IS Hell.  We committed to a mission and the whole world is watching.  I am sick of the media focusing on Iraq and how bad the war is going there.  Afghanistan is going on, and the Taliban is making a major punch back and threatening to regain control of some key areas this spring.  Where is this coverage?  What about what America has done for the Iraqi’s since the war?  How about the effort to rebuild the infrastructure, rebuild schools, hospitals, police stations, build bridges, maintain power lines and water pipes.  How come we never hear how many attacks were averted by Iraqi and American forces doing their jobs well?  How come we never hear about minor operations of detainment of terror suspects or insurgents or local militia bent on sectarian violence?  Of course we all think the war is going to Hell because all we see are body counts, broken bodies, horror stories, and negativity on the news (a majority of the incoming information outlet for everybody outside of the military loop).  I am not saying the war is going good, I admitted it is going bad, but it is not the failure story the major media will make you believe it is.  We are fighting a 2 war front; insurgents and local sectarian militia in reprisal attacks.  This is hard because the enemy is everyone and no one at the same time, yes it is much like fighting the Viet-Cong.  Only Congress can declare war and call for its end.  Bush is the Commander and Chief until then.  Congress is not briefed on daily intel or sit-reps from the field, Bush’s advisors and himself are.  He is told what the generals say they need and then does what he can to get it to them.  Obviously the lessons of how not to conduct a military operation by committee and legislation were not learned in Korea and Vietnam.  War is never easy to win or easy for the public to swallow.  It takes making hard, unpopular, and risky choices to conduct and maintain.  It is NOT a popularity contest nor an operation where you have to have permission to defend yourself and ask the person who is shooting at you who they are so you know if you can shoot back at them.  As I stated earlier, the whole world is watching.  If we retreat, and pulling out is retreating… make no bones about it, it WILL embolden the enemy, the terrorists, not the Iraqis, and good old # 2 on our list will jump up to # 1 when all the bad crap happens here at home… don’t dismiss this as a nut job prediction, if we do anything that can be perceived as weak and giving up, the terrorists will declare an immediate victory and will push on harder and more brutally to their next objective.  They WILL NOT stop with Iraq.  They WILL NOT stop at pushing us out of the Middle East.  They are ideologically opposed to us and what we stand for.  They feel the world is better off without us, and once we are out of the region, well they can get their nukes, bio-agents, and other WMD and come here to finish off the infidel, cleansing the world of the devil and sinners that they see us all as.  Look to Iran and its treatment of women.  All you corporate and professional women… its burkas and staying at home and not leaving the house without a male escort or risk being stoned to death like 16 year old girls who attempt to have pre-marital sex do in Iran.  Convert or die, that is the fundamentalist mantra and creed.  They are willing to die for their cause, and we are not willing to take the fight to them anymore.  Good decision moving to communists China on my part, here terrorists are hunted down and killed, no questions asked… because the government can.  I am not suggesting the US becomes a police state like China, but unless we finish what we started that may be the only way to maintain safety and security.  We can give up on quitting smoking, drinking, dieting, listening to our spouses and kids, paying the bills each month, saving for threat vacation, calling our local, state, and federal representatives to keep them honest, we can give up and quite on all of it, but if we give up on this war and embolden the enemy we have no idea when or where they will strike next.  They are a nationless, morale-less, warped ideological bunch of hate and war mongers that will never stop.  They will say they will stop, but once we give them that insignificant inch, the rest of the mile will be too tempting for them to resist.

Ok, all ten priorities of the American people according to Gallup have been identified and discussed.  See a pattern?  It is seemingly we know there are problems, but for the most part we can’t agree on how to fix them.  That is what makes politics hard and tuff.  The tougher part still is the responsibility of the politician is to do what is best for his electorate, not his career or himself.  If people want new hospitals you do what you can to get them, not the $20 Million bridge to an island with less the 30 people living on it.  You present your voting record to your constituents and say with confidence, "I listened and voted your mind".  If what they are calling for is contrary to the greater good, or short sided to the greater good, it is your job, the politician and not the news media, to convince them of this.  If you are a skilled and crafty politician you can pull this off or just lump it up and say, "I did what was in the best interest for all and I stand by my decision as a leader and voice of reason for the greater good of the community and nation".  If it costs you your job, oh well, you have your integrity and self respect and other will respect you too.  Polls have too much weight placed upon them now.  They are seen as how politicians should vote, not a too to ascertain how the people view an opinion of the time.  Gallup does the best it can to control the quality and integrity of its polls, but they are not perfect and the methods they use do not stand up to the scrutiny or diligence of Information Science.  Politicians need to conduct there own surveys on issues, not rely on Gallup.  They should use this as a weather vain of how the community is flowing.  They need to hold more town hall meetings, discuss upcoming legislation with community leaders.  They need to live and conduct business ethically and morally.  The special interests and lobbyists do not have the best interest of anyone other then their clients in mind.

Voters also need to stop paying attention to these polls.  They are a self actualizing prophecy.  Everyone wants to be part of the majority because it offers inclusion, safety, and belonging.  It validates our perceptions of the world, so when asked a question we answer in a way we thing other will answer.  We shape our world on popularity contests.  We are unwilling to go against the grain or challenge the status quo on anything.  ‘If all your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it to?"  Voters also need to get off their asses and research the issues and formulate a personal platform.  Yes it is hard, yes it takes time, yes shortcuts are easier… but we are Americans.  We have rights people could never fathom in the world.  We have duties and responsibilities governments kill their citizens to prevent from having.  Our rights were written in the blood of hundreds of thousands of our ancestors so we could have what we have today, and we can not go out and do a simple thing like research the topics, contact our leaders, or even vote.  In Iraq’s last election voter turn out was higher then any major election in the US in I have no clue, but 20+ years sounds conservative.  Our government and its actions ALL of its actions are a direct reflection of us.  Living in Milwaukee taught me one thing.  Recalls are possible.  The city government was recalled and man did it scare the hell out of the city government.  They are still feeling the aftershocks of it with people going to jail and leaders actively engaging the public.  County government also took notice and cleaned itself up a bit, but no where near what happened on the city level.  The State and Federal governments… they feel immune because voter turnout has been less the 40% since Kennedy was elected.  The effort and cost to get a Representative on the State or Federal level is enormous and so they feel shielded and safe to do business as usual and the hell with the voters, until 1 year before elections.  Voters take politicians at face value, while admitting they do not believe them or trust them, yet they always believe them when they say their platform is this or that.  John Kerry found out that having a shifting platform exposed was disastrous, so many will just hide theirs more creatively.  We are voting for these people to be our voice and do what we would do for 2, 6, and 4 years… don’t we owe it to ourselves to make an informed decision?  We place more scrutiny in buying a washing machine, refrigerator, car, TV, garden equipment, cosmetics, wardrobes then we do our elected officials.  We read magazines and watch 30 to 60 minute news media ent-umentories on our consumer goods and research them and compare them on the Internet before we go and get them, yet we spend about the same amount of time buying groceries in a week as we do for selecting an elected official for the next few years of our lives.  Then we wonder what the hell is going on when they get caught sleeping with little boys, voting for special interests they take bribes from, have drunken driving accidents resulting in the death of people, engaging in morally corrupt behavior in the place they work, etc.  Well, you elected this person and the only one with a legitimate grip is the poor sod who voted against them!  Those who do not vote, well you have no room to complain about anything at all, because it is not important enough in your life to go to the polls or fill out that absentee ballot because you will be out of town or on vacation or your boss can’t let you off work, or you have to watch the kids, are in class with a overbearing professor… sorry, if you don’t care to take the time you have no say as far as I am concerned. 

It would be nice to make voters take a simple civics test every 5 to 10 years.  We test drivers, why not voters.  If they throw up the language issue, well if the election machine uses English then guess what, take the test in English!  Civics and civic responsibility is everyone’s responsibility because our decisions effect everyone in our community, from local to national.  If you do not know how long or even the difference between a senator and house of representative is how can you vote?  If you do not know the Supreme Court is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Congress then how can you vote for either?  If you can not name the top 4 people in line to be president then how can you know how important your vote is?  If you can not name three of the top 5 amendments to the constitution guaranteeing and explaining your rights as a citizen, how can you vote?  Notice I am not suggesting people be able to name 3 of their candidates major platform issues or name a high power and important committee or any specific about any person.  People need to know the positions and roles of their elected official firstly, then they drill down to the platforms, ideologies, integrity, leadership skills… instead of being able to bullshit us and tell us what we want to hear.  This way we can see through the poll results and the news expose and pick a candidate we feel will best represent us and our communities.

To nicely wrap this up, there is a problem with polls… we believe them as gospel, not a weather vein for current public opinion on the issues the poll takers decided to investigate.  We need to challenge the polls and not take them at face value.  Who conducted the poll, what methodology did they use, who was their sample group, how many people were sampled, what questions were asked, where the questions open ended but lacked enough choices to satisfy ourselves, what is the percentage of error, how was the percentage of error calculated, did the survey takers ask questions correctly (did they hint at an anticipated answer, did they offer advice if asked, did they emphasize key words in the question)?  See polls have inherent traps and pitfalls.  Statistics are notorious for being able to be shaped into telling people what you want to tell them.  Wording can make things sound more or less dramatic.  People associate statistics with hard science and therefore pure truth.  Polls may be seen less trust worthy but they are taken at face value too much also.  Polls are good, but not good enough to judge the fate of a nation on.  They give us the false sense things are going in the direction we want them to or believe they should be going.  They reaffirm out perception we do not need to get up and act because 60% or two thirds of the people polled say they want this… I want this too, so the majority rules and I can ignore it because I now know it will happen without my involvement at all.  The do the opposite too.  Oh crap 75% of people are against me, it unless, I give up, there is not point in participating in a losing cause.  See those conducting and more importantly those reporting the poll results hold vast amounts of power, and they are not responsible to us at all, just trying to gain our ratings for the time slot their highest bidding advertisers ask for.  Nothing can be taken at face value.  We do not believe the TV commercials about product X, we investigate it against product Y and Z to make sure we get the best for our money, but our taxes are taken out before we have any spending money so who cares, its not like we are buying our government anyway… do you think me being bigger of faster has anything to do in this place, do you think that is air you are breathing…hmm.  Polls cloud our minds with half baked scientific results presented in a way as to be short and concise and easy to digest.  They are a business, and they are in the business of opinions and assumptions… not a very stable environment to work in.  They are a tool at best, and like every tool it has one specific purpose.  A screwdriver makes a lousy hammer.  Sitting down and accepting everything the talking heads on TV, news papers, blogger’s, talk show hosts is just bad business for our government and ourselves.  If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.  I refuse to sit back and keep quiet about this and I always have, just look at my past posts.  Americans have an obligation and duty to get out there and vote intelligently, not based on polls and weekend editorials.  The news media will have you believe the 2008 election is already beginning, and it is just barely 2007.  Everyone wants to back a winner, but unless you know the history of that winner, it may make you the loser in 2 to 4 years time!  Research, listen, challenge, validate and then vote.  Unless you do that you are basically buying a house that looked good in the ad in the paper and the real estate agent said was perfect for your credit limit, err I mean for you.

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