Letter: Invalid polls muddy the water



Every time I see a reader/listener/viewer poll I want to tear out what little of my hair that remains. Despite the usual disclaimer that such polls are unscientific, they are worse than that; they damage the legitimacy of properly conducted polls.

The disclaimers have all the impact of the disclaimers delivered in a soft sprinted monotone at the end of commercials for some new miracle drug.

Often people don’t know what it takes to design a scientific poll, and they lump them all together. They defend their general distrust of everything they don’t agree with by reciting cliches like “Liars figure and figures lie.”

A Columbian staff member once told me that the newspaper’s polls were intended to provide its readers with information. I dispute that. They have no validity.

Several years ago I listened to a caller on a talk show who said the last election had to be fixed, that he had kept track of calls and they had been overwhelmingly for the loser. In an act of candor, the host asked him what made the caller think the station’s listeners, much less callers, were representative of the general public.

James D. Patton