The biased, angry world of political surveys

Neither party actually wants my opinion — they just want my money.

Do you get surveys in the mail from the political parties? The Democrats and Republicans send me surveys since I’ve donated to both over the years. It’s been a long time since I donated to the Republicans, though. It goes back to 2002 when I supported U.S. Representative Jennifer Dunn. I haven’t supported a Republican since, but I still get the surveys. Once your name gets on a political party list, it’s on it forever.

Democrats also send me surveys that I still fill out, hoping my opinion will shape party thinking. I have a deeper level of trust for Democrats than I do for Republicans—at this point.

But my fear is that the surveys are all alike in that the parties are not considering my thoughts. They are instead, stroking my ego to get me to donate money.

For the Republican survey I just got, the request was to mark either “right track” or “wrong track”.

The first nine questions dealt with how great the economy was. That was before COVID-19. The economy was meant to be the President’s chief reelection strength. That’s now gone.

“The President announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the unfair Paris Climate Accord.” Another question used similar biased wording: “President Trump tossed out the horrible NAFTA agreement and negotiated the new USMCA trade deal with Mexico and Canada to put America first.” If the surveyors really wanted objective information, they would not have used such slanted terminology.

“Deregulatory efforts by the Trump administration will save American households an estimated $3,100 per year.”

This question bothers me because it ignores the question whether the quality of life was diminished due to pollution, or corruption and crime went up due to lack of government oversight that the returned money might have prevented.

Here’s another: “Under President Trump’s leadership, 7 million people have come off food stamps.”

There are two ways to look at this issue: One is that tax money was saved by the cuts. The unspoken message is that people on food stamps are gaming the system and don’t deserve the money they get. They’re lazy and stupid. The other issue was that those 7 million people now have no way to feed themselves. Empathy does not seem to play a part. No question mentions all the corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts and other federal benefits the rich and corporations receive which far exceed these welfare payments to the poor.

The same holds true of the survey Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent me. The title of the map that was enclosed with her letter was: “2020 House Majority Battlefield”. Pelosi described the November 2020 election in terms of a war. The language was very martial and aggressive.

Perhaps, when considering Trump’s impeachment acquittal, there is reason for such inflammatory language from her.

In the past, the Republican surveys were not marked to be actually used. I know because I use machine grading in my classes to correct tests. I complained to the Republicans by sending a post-it note, stating that it was obvious the information wasn’t going to be used because no machine could pick up or tally the answers. I told them it was obvious they really didn’t care what I thought, they just wanted me to donate to the Republican Party.

On the form I got this past week, it seems somebody may have listened because they showed the correct and incorrect ways to answer—“Fill in the circles, don’t mark with check marks or x’s.” Maybe my post-it had an influence! Or maybe they just got more sophisticated. As they say in statistics, “Correlation does not equal causation.” That means just because there is a connection between an action and an outcome, that the action caused the outcome.

I have a deep suspicion that both parties use cons to get us to send money, not to get our opinion. The real issue for me is trust. Both parties play on fear to motivate. Which party can I trust more to represent my interests and concerns? I see that the president lies constantly. His only goal since he took office in early 2017 has been to get reelected in 2020. My belief is that Trump has set the tone for the Republicans where integrity doesn’t matter.

The alternative is to elect a man who is honest and moderate, who has integrity, and who can be trusted to put the welfare of the country first.

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