William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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WHO IS VOTING?  WHO GETS POLLED? – AT 10:35 A.M. ET:  We sometimes wonder, when we look at polls, who is actually being questioned, and who will wind up actually voting.  This week the Gallup organization came out with a startling statement about the makeup of this year's electorate: 

The largest changes in the composition of the electorate compared with the last presidential election concern the partisan affiliation of voters. Currently, 46% of likely voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 54% in 2008. But in 2008, Democrats enjoyed a wide 12-point advantage in party affiliation among national adults, the largest Gallup had seen in at least two decades. More recently, Americans have been about as likely to identify as or lean Republican as to identify as or lean Democratic. Consequently, the electorate has also become less Democratic and more Republican in its political orientation than in 2008. In fact, the party composition of the electorate this year looks more similar to the electorate in 2004 than 2008.

That electorate re-elected George W. Bush, Republican, in a squeaker.

Now, on polling.  One of our distinguished readers is Jory Goodman, M.D., a highly respected psychiatrist and researcher.  He sends us this on the subject of who gets polled:

I've noted that all polls are inherently biased because only certain types of people want to be polled. Many refuse and hang up or walk away. Others seem flattered and eager to do it. What does this mean for the polls?

It really revolves around the difference between maturity and immaturity. This also characterizes the classic difference between the conservative and liberal.

The conservative tends to be more of an individualist. The conservative minds his or her own business and doesn't want to bother the other person or be bothered by the person. They tend to be problem solvers and leaders. They have more of an executive brain as opposed to an administrative/managerial brain. In short, they are grownups. They don't blame others. They accept responsibility. They "take it like a man."

As many others have written before, the liberal tends to be much more infantile and narcissistic, self-absorbed and entitled. When wrong on the facts the liberal attacks the other person for their tone, attitude, insensitivity, and various other irrelevant matters as avoidance of the central factual issue. It is always somebody else's fault, liability or responsibility. Never theirs.

So what does this have to do with polls. It's rather simple. The more immature, infantile or narcissistic the person the more self-important they believe themselves to be. These are people who are quite ready to express their opinion (because they have the right to do so of course) at any time and any place, whether it's appropriate or not. They always know best. When such individuals are approached by a pollster they are very flattered. It feeds their narcissistic grandiosity and they are eager to give their opinion. And they do.

The conclusion, which I have never seen anybody state before, is that virtually all polls will oversample more infantile, immature, narcissistic liberals. The grownups mind their own business and don't want to be imposed upon. The more liberal ones are more eager to spout off.

Obviously there are specific circumstances where this does not apply. If you took a poll at a meeting of the National Rifle Association, or a conservative think tank, or the editorial staff of the Weekly Standard, one can anticipate a consistency of response. Yet, if people are called randomly on the telephone or queried  on the street, the factors I have alluded to come into play. The ones who answer tend to be more flattered, more eager to express themselves, and more eager to please the pollster. It doesn't matter which party they may state an affiliation with, the phenomenon is constant.

I think most pollsters even know this consciously or have some good instinct about it but never talk about it. To do so would invalidate all of their work.

Are the polls correct We will see. But I suggest you keep this in mind when you look at any political polls because this is a constant and regular variable. One can use this analysis of character and maturity to analyze many, many aspects of our culture.

COMMENT:  Very stimulating stuff, and we thank Dr. Goodman.

November 3, 2012