What’s the deal with polls, anyway?

A new poll is out today – found it on Drudge: Obama – 45%, McCain – 44%. (Check it out: Gallup daily poll.) This is part of an inane daily presidential tracking poll. There is a cultural fascination with things like this. I’ve actually been interviewed by Gallup but not for this poll. If you read the Gallup poll you’ll see that this is considered a “statistical tie” and that means who’s reportedly on top doesn’t actually matter – it’s too close to tell. But the graphic on that site indicates its been like this for a while. The “so-what” factor has kicked in for me.

Is the fascination with polls driven by us – the “poll-ee’s” or by the pollers? Do we love to see whether our beliefs are out of whack with everyone else? Or do the pollers just like to feel on top? There’s probably a dozen reasons in either direction.

What if my beliefs were out of whack with everyone else’s? On a national election, I think it may not be so significant; I really don’t have to tell anybody anything. But, surely what you believe differs from your neighbor or co-worker, friend or even spouse on some issue. Then what? Do you act as the “neighborhood George Gallup” and poll your buddies and then change what you believe? Why would you do that?

There’s a fear of conviction in our culture. People are afraid to believe in something and you can tell whether you’re afraid by how many (or how few) people actually know what you believe. There’s a fear of people in our culture.

Well, that’s not really accurate. If I steal $50 from you, you will have no issues with conviction then. If I build a fence in your back yard, your words will come. If I t-bone you on the highway and then drive away screaming obscenities at you, then, well, that’s easy.

What about if I suggested that you should give money to a church instead of buy a new car? Or, write an editorial about rampant inner city crime? Or picket an abortion clinic? Then what? You may just waffle. You may cave to peer pressure.

Are we only willing to hold to principles when they’re “safe” according to our culture? Popularity is a big deal in your life. The problem is that many times what is right is not popular. If our commitment is to be mainstream (whatever that means) then we will waste our lives.

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