When polls show a majority of folks favor a policy or candidate, it marginalizes those who disagree with the poll, peer-pressuring them into conformity.
A new Indianapolis Star poll, conducted with Ball State University, shows 50.2 percent of people in Indiana support providing special nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Indiana’s laws. Reportedly, only 35.1 percent are opposed. That is par for the course on LGBTQ issues, but vote results consistently invalidate such polls, which raises the question: Is the purpose of polling data to convey the views of a representative sample or to engage in marketing tactics to sway views?
Argumentum ad populum is Latin for the idea that because many people believe something to be true, it is true. Closely related is the bandwagon effect in marketing, where marketers attempt to persuade people to purchase their goods and services by claiming “everyone else is doing it.” These strategies aren’t just used to sell goods and services—they are also used to sell politicians and policies.
What’s the best way to show that “everyone else” supports the candidate or legislation? Polling. When polls show a majority of folks favor a policy or candidate, it marginalizes those who disagree with the poll, peer-pressuring them into conformity by making them think their opinions are unpopular, invalid, or irrelevant.
The problem, however, is that polling seems to be increasingly skewed in favor of a particular agenda. Can you remember the last time the mainstream media reported a poll on social issues showing a conservative idea winning?
Witness the Growth in Inaccurate Polling
Recently in Houston, Texas, a proposition that would allow men to use women’s bathrooms failed by nearly 2 to 1 (61 percent to 39 percent). This is despite the fact that polls reported significant support for the proposition in the weeks and months leading up to the vote. In fact, a Houston Association of Realtors poll showed 15 percent more Houston voters supported the proposition than opposed it. Obviously, these polls were grossly inaccurate.
The recent race for Kentucky governor also reflected the same inaccurate polling. The Huffington Post, which unapologetically leans liberal, showed the liberal leading the conservative, who vocally supported Kim Davis, the clerk who declined to issue same-sex marriage licenses, by about 2.1 percent. Other polling showed the liberal leading by as much as 5 percent. While the race was tight, the conservative ended up with the support of 53 percent of Kentucky voters, while the liberal only secured 44 percent. The conservative candidate won by 9 points.
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