November 02, 2013

Christopher Hitchens on Opinion Polls

Christopher Hitchens lances the polling habit here:
"What we've done with democracy is to assume it's a measurement of public opinion. When I was young there was quite an argumnet as to whether newspapers should even publish opinion polls, because they were thought to be unscientific and probably too easy to skew. Now newspapers commission expensive opinion polls usually in concert with a television or broadcasting organisation. Commission their own polls and then print their own findings as news on the front page when they've got nothing else to do. This is a parody of democracy. It's not even populism really. It's pseudo-science for one thing and it's anti-democratic for another. 
No I fear people have got so attached to it, they've forgotten what it means, that word now. So it's quite possible we're now due for a new word and I'll brood on that. And popular sovereignty, no." 
Video (at 26 minutes) in full, Christopher Hitchens explains here. He also talks about polling in the video here and further below:
"Pollster originally meant huckster. Basically somebody making a living out of something that's vaguely fraudulent. It used to be that newspapers would wonder if they should print opinion poll results at all, let along commission them. Now they commission them and wonder if they should use them for their own background information or whether they should themselves print them. Now the Washington Post, Newsweek and ABC will combine to produce a front page story and lead story on the network. Bought and paid for themselves.
He continued:
"Absolutely economises on work, thought and reflection... it does itself. It doesn't require any work, any thought."

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