June 28, 2004
IN THE MAIL: A copy of Frank Newport’s forthcoming book, Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People. Newport, the Editor-in-Chief of Gallup, is out to make the case for the importance of polling in a democracy, and he’s obviously concerned that polls are losing credibility. That’s because — as Eugene Volokh regularly notes — polls that are unscientific, or that are misrepresented by media coverage, are so common. Newport’s most interesting point is that polls can uncover collective wisdom (he sounds almost like Howard Smart Mobs Rheingold in places) that other mechanisms miss.
That may be true, but sloppiness and dishonesty in polling — and, to a much greater extent, in media reporting of polls, something Newport devotes a chapter to — are doing considerable damage to the institution, and those who care about it should be paying more attention to that issue.
And if all this stuff interests you, you may be interested in Daniel Drummond’s link-rich post on polling over at The Fourth Rail.