September 8, 2010

My (Spun) Opinion Matters

I received a political polling call last night and amused myself by agreeing to participate. The poll was slanted — the work of a political party.

Slanted polls generally rely on the false dichotomy fallacy (aka. either-or) usually set up this way: Would you rather vote for a candidate who wants (some horrible-sounding outcome) or one who wants (some wonderful-sounding outcome)? Just to be a stinker I chose the horrible-sounding outcome each time 🙂

Independent polling companies and their news media partners generally do a better job of crafting questions; it would be nice if journalists did a better job of covering polls. It should go without saying that journalists should not report on factional polls unless writing an article about the role of factional polls in the political process. The information gathered from these polls is the stuff of political propaganda.

But it is unlikely that the poll I took last night will be released. Instead, the candidate(s) involved will more likely use it to craft talking points that — unless something has changed in the last 24 hours and no one has told me — reporters will dutifully record and pass on to the public with nary a follow-up question.

Here’s what I teach my students about questioning the information sources give them. This method of critical reporting is quite opposed to the common practice of political stenography.

One Response

  1. Keith R. 

    Too bad more in the media are not your “A” students!!! It seems that many are content to eat from the spoon without regard to which backside it has recently been inserted… And most in the general public are happy to do the same. Critical thinking is now reduced to the level required to watch an episode of “Wife Swap” or “Dancing With The Stars” and texting LOL to the person sitting next to you!!