Polls Shouldn’t Shape Policy

Polls, ladies and gentlemen, are useless.

Well, that isn’t true absolutely. Just within this context. Polls are very useful in limited scope, they can gauge general attitudes and opinions on various broad topics. That information has uses. What seems to be ignored repeatedly by those reporting on poll results though, is that the average person polled is woefully under informed on most topics about which they are being polled, and yet their opinions are still being given weight. That because they have an opinion, that opinion is informed. They shouldn’t be given that weight.

To put it bluntly, the average person being asked the question is probably too stupid to be worth asking. They don’t know, they shouldn’t be asked. This is why polling can accurately gauge prevailing attitudes but shouldn’t ever be used to craft policy. Because that poll can also, but isn’t, be used to gauge topic competence. Topic competence would ruin the validity of the poll as a leverage tool however, so we don’t ask those questions.

I bring this up for this reason. Over at the Washington Monthly they are commenting on a Nationhood Lab piece that is looking at gun violence regionally. That is, in my opinion, a good thing. We need to go beyond regional however and probably down to the county level for data and efforts to combat violence effectively to matter. The regions highlighted in the study are still far too large. The dilute the problems too much and that makes for poor and ill fit solutions.

But what kicked off this commentary was this paragraph,

Nationscape also asked respondents if they support everything from requiring universal gun purchase background checks to banning firearms. The results are encouraging—if you think the status quo is unacceptable. ]

They reference this chart on an assault weapon ban, they call the results ‘encouraging’. I want you readers to remember that. They call this result… from the public… ‘encouraging‘.

[There was near universal support in every region for background checks, with higher percentages of support in each than the proportion of Americans that believe NASA put astronauts on the moon or that the Earth is round. There was also majority support in every region for banning assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, albeit with margins ranging from a few percent (or even a fraction of a percent) in the Far West, the Deep South, and Greater Appalachia to massive 30 and 40 point margins in the “blue” regions. (You can read the details here.) 

Did you catch that.

with higher percentages of support in each than the proportion of Americans that believe NASA put astronauts on the moon or that the Earth is round.

The public, who we are polling for effective policy support, is in greater support of Universal Background Checks than believe we landed on the moon or that the earth is round. And that, is encouraging.

The public. The same public that cannot be wholly trusted to trust in a major historical event and achievement of science that happened in 1969, that’s living memory for 20% of the population, or even the basic physics involved in planetology and trust that the planet we are standing on is round… that public, we should trust their opinion on gun policy.

Because more morons support UBCs than think our space rock matches every other observable space rock in the universe in its basic fucking shape, that is encouraging.

No. Fuck off.

That’s not encouraging. That’s a giant pile of red flagged evidence that we don’t need to take the public’s opinions very seriously beyond a certain gauge of their attitudes, worries, and stresses in a very generalized sense. Because they’re stupid.

In what world can I survey someone who doesn’t understand a rule that requires any nuanced understanding about the rule and get an answer worth my time? Why would I survey all bakers about aircraft wing design, especially in so vague of terms that it amounts to ‘should we make wings better or not’? Why would I survey all chefs about their opinions regarding chemical burns and if they think chemical burns are serious burns?

Why would I survey people who don’t think we landed on the moon or that our planet is the same rough shape as every other planet and take their opinion seriously regarding the space program? Or satellites? Or the internet?

Why would I take anything seriously in polls so abysmally diluted and full of inexpert opinion that they amount to asking ‘should we be more safe or less safe?’, and then these supposed social scientists and policy drafters running around like we’ve won the Olympics with a poll result where most people picked ‘more safe’.

They using that ‘more safe’ as justification for whichever policy they can clench out from between their cheeks and claim everyone on that poll card supports it.

“But Keith,” you say smugly as a hypothetical person with a gotcha point to play, “You parrot polls that support your opinions.”

I sure do, I’m just as pessimistic about the expertise of those surveyed in those. What I’m happy about seeing in those polls is the public not buying into the unsubstantiated bullshit being peddled by the politico types promising to fix ‘gun violence’ when holding that opinion either proves their stupidity or the willful complicity into lying to the public just to keep winning their seat. Often both.

I’m so tired of popular moronism. I’m tired of us taking people like Sheila Jackson Lee seriously when they stand up in the chamber and get literally nothing right in the incoherent babbling about any topic they present as their informed testimony. I’m tired of policy makers failing ‘are you smarter than a 5th grader’ level understandings of the topics they are voting on, and then still being sat there to vote. Not just guns, everything. We have a sitting congressman, Hank Johnson of Georgia, who asked a US Navy Admiral if the US Marines were in danger of capsizing Guam… capsizing an island… that man asked that in 2010 and still has a job, the same job, where he makes decisions about things like where to put Marines, transportation infrastructure, oh yeah… and gun policy.

Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009, he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.