Supporters of polling argue that it is a tool for democracy. Critics of polling think that it makes politicians into reactors rather than leaders. Which opinion do you agree with and why?
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Politicians have always been able to take the pulse of their constituencies, and today's polling is a more refined extension of that ability. However, I share the concerns of #3, since results can be so easily manipulated. In particular, polls paid for by a politician are likely to obtain the results a pollster thinks the politician wants to hear. This was apparent when Republican-hired polls seemed to consistently show how far ahead Republicans were in the last election. How many pollsters can afford to tell the emperor he has no clothes?
The concerns pointed to in post #3 are highly valid, in my opinion, yet I still feel that polling is a tool for democracy. Without devices like polls, would politicians have to rely on their own opinions and the opinions of their friends alone to surmise the general opinions of the populace?
Better to have some input, even potentially flawed input, than to be forced to rely on a very limited base of information.
With this said, it seems to me that we have more options than polling or not polling to gather useful information about public opinion and public perceptions. Social media opens up many avenues for gathering information and inviting wide-ranging input. Using social media also allows for more open-ended queries/polls/invitations for input, which can overcome some of the biases and problems suggested in the post above.
I worry about polling. It think it can be easily misleading. Pollsters report poll results without giving the questions they asked. You can manipulate people to respond a certain way. Of course, as we learned in the last election, people are not stupid. You can not always use polls to trick the public.
I think it's more of a tool for democracy. I think that, in order to lead, politicians need to know what the people think. You can't have democracy unless the politicians know what people think. We would never say that politicians should go out and talk to people to find out what their attitudes are. So I don't think that we should be unhappy if they commission polls to do the same thing.
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