Political surveys need to ask better questions

I was reading an article online Sunday and came across this survey which had the title “How Republican Are You?” At the end of the survey, the tallied results told you if your answers made you more aligned with the GOP, Democrat, Green, Libertarian or Socialist party, actually weighing your alignment with the results.  Since I am an Independent voter, who left the GOP in 2006, I decided to take a few minutes to complete it.

I would describe myself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive. What that means is I don’t mind spending tax payer money, but I do want it to be for a greater good, according to some plan and achieve a Return on Investment. Throwing money at problems without measurement does not meet the needs in the long run. Yet, I also am in favor of assuring the equal rights and opportunities of all people, even the ones that do things or worship differently than I do. And, when people are in need, I am a big believer in helping them climb a ladder.

With that context, the survey was interesting, but lacking. I was disappointed in some of the questions that were asked and some that were not asked. The survey seemed to be based on headline issues and not day-to-day problems and concerns.

A couple of disappointing questions that were asked

I was truly disappointed that the question “do you believe in evolution?” was asked. Folks, it is January 2014. To me this shows the dumbing down of American politics to its lowest element that the surveyor felt obligated to ask this question. Fortunately, the survey did not ask if I believed the world was only 6,000 years old.

The other question that disturbed me was “do you believe in global warming?” This issue has pretty much been put to bed and only lingers due to the significant public relations push the fossil fuel industry has done for years to dissuade people. Yet, when less scientific people like Rush and Trump make inane comments because it was snowing, it panders to the dumbing down of American politics. For the record, I left the GOP in 2006 because of their stance on global warming then. My belief is if the party cannot acknowledge the greatest threat to our planet, then how can I fully trust your position on other issues?

I wished these questions were asked

I wished questions were asked about fiscal matters. There were headline issues included in the survey, many of which were fine, yet if you want to glean perspective on governance style, additional questions should have been asked. To me good questions would be some like the following.

What roles should be more governed by the federal government, state government or local government? Over the next thirty years, should we increase, decrease or stay constant on investment in fossil fuel development in the US? Should we focus more, less or the same on developing alternative energy sources? Over the next thirty years, should we be more focused on deficit reduction, growth in our economy or both? How invasive should our intelligence gathering be on common citizens? Should the US play a larger, smaller or similar role in promoting global peace, security and trade? Should we invest more, less or the same in our infrastructure? Should we invest more, less or the same on education? on defense? Is access to affordable healthcare of all citizens a right or privilege? Is it of importance that industry is governed to protect environmental concerns? What are the biggest problems facing your family over the next ten years?

Since the questions were asked more off headlines and less on fiscal matters, the conclusion of the survey for my answers is I was more aligned with the Green and Democrat parties. Yet, for me, the way the survey was asked does a disservice to my fiscal conservatism. I do believe there is a role for government on overarching investments that one industry, business or region cannot do alone, but I want them to use the money wisely. I do believe in a strong military, but we should not spend money on durable goods that we won’t need or use. I do want to help people gain opportunities that they have been denied, but I want to use the money wisely. I want to help people help themselves, so they can keep their dignity, but also break the cycle of poverty or disenfranchisement. This is a key premise of the book “Toxic Charity.” When we help people, we should be helping them climb the ladder reserving true charity only for emergencies.

We have many big issues facing us – our poverty problem, our need for more jobs, our need for better education, our need for improving our infrastructure, our need to address our immigration issues – which need to be studied and solutions planned out. Gauging the temperature of our citizens on these issues is what is needed. Many of the headline issues are important, but some are tools in the arsenal of what is needed. Complex issues require more holistic solutions. And, since money is not infinite, we do need to be good stewards with our expenditures in some areas spending less while in other areas spending more, which may require some additional revenue dedicated to funding.

Please look for the survey and complete it. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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6 thoughts on “Political surveys need to ask better questions

  1. I saw your question this morning. Unfortunately, this post just popped up on my reader list today. Sometimes that happens with WordPress, and i don’t know why. Many posts used to show up in my e-mail account, such as yours, but no more for some reason.

    Regarding surveys: I very rarely take them or will take them, in any manner. I’ve found that based upon the questions, they are usually slanted to the organization that is paying for it. As you’ve noted, the questions usually have a pre-determined bias to them. Also, statistically, surveys are becoming less reliable-for example, many political surveys rely on land-line phones, when we know about 30% of the population no longer even have a land line phone. Others are based upon registered voters, or DMV records, all slanted data bases.

    Your concerns are well grounded, but the cynic in me always questions the basis for the survey and who paid for it.

    Good post

    • Barney, you hit the proverbial nail on the head. The source of the survey is critical. Is it a reliable source, are the questions not leading. My favorite was a telephone one for the Newt Gingrich campaign who played two minutes of Obama crushing rhetoric and then asked you to take a survey. You are also correct about the land lines, etc. as well. Thanks for reading and commenting, BTG

  2. And herein lies the problem with the polls and surveys that become the basis for public policy. You raise great questions. It is surprising that they weren’t addressed. But what is just as frustrating to me is how the wording of questions can slant results and the answer choices can be damnably frustrating when non of them match my opinion.

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