Pollsters play too big a part in our lives

We don't need pollsters to do our thinking for us, and can take charge ourselves.

RBC recently conducted a survey and determined that almost 90 per cent of Canadians are paying more for their groceries than they were a year ago. They announced the results of this study in various media forms recently.

Really? Did someone have to conduct a survey to tell us are food is costing more each year? “Omigod honey, look at this article. Food costs are up, that’s why we don’t have as much money in our pocket as we used to.” But at least we know what the good folks at RBC are doing with the money we give them.

Surveys and polls are a big part of our daily lives and we only have to look at the recent election to see how wrong or misleading this type of information can be. After all, we have to remember that when someone is doing a poll on their service, product or candidate they are not going to advertise any negativity or criticism. would you buy a car if the manufacturer reported, “A recent survey shows that people like the way our car looks but 78.1 per cent of drivers say it guzzles fuel and steers like a tractor.”

Beside, studies show that 78.1 per cent of all statistics are made up on the spot and politicians are very adept at throwing positive numbers around. Some pundits suggest that the recent election results were partially due to lazy voters who heard their party was miles ahead, a sure winner, so they didn’t bother to vote.

We tend to be lazy a lot. We will let other people, pollsters, movie critics, book critics do the asking and the watching and the reading and tell us what we should think, watch or read. How many times have you seen a bad movie review only to watch it years later on DVD or TV and say, “Hey, that was a great movie.” Maybe you have bought a book for 50 cents at a garage sale and  it turned out to be the best book you ever read but never made a best-seller list. A friend of mine bought a book on anti-gravity and couldn’t put it down.

Many people hang up on polls or surveys for a couple of reasons. They never phone at a good time for one and, if you do consent,  they ask the dumbest most confusing questions you’ve ever heard.

“For the next question we would like you answer, somewhat disagree, mostly disagree, don’t disagree, mostly agree or somewhat agree.” Who talks like that?

When the ice was falling from the Port Mann Bridge did anyone phone the Ministry of Transportation and say, “Hi, I somewhat disagree with the practice of icicles coming through my windshield.” I’m sure they used clear and concise language that didn’t require a poll to tell them drivers were unhappy. If you have a question, ask it quickly and clearly, and maybe we won’t hang up on you.

In reading the RBC report I discovered that  the polling industry has a professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association. They scientifically quantify the results of polls. Maybe it’s just me, but anytime I hear someone say they are from an intelligence association, I say nothing.

Do your own thinking and go with your gut. You may not agree with me, but 78.1 per cent of my readers believe every word I say. At least that’s what McGregor says.