I just had the interesting experience of getting called by a well-known polling company while sitting in the Tampa Airport.
The good news is that they’re allegedly going to send me $5 for participating via cell phone (yes, I’m a cheap bastard, so that was all it took to convince me to give up 10 minutes of my time – especially since there are not many exciting things to do while waiting for a delayed flight).
The bad news is that polling companies ask poorly designed questions.
I was asked, for instance, what I wanted as the main goal of fiscal policy. My choices were, a) reducing taxes, b) reducing the deficit, or c) maintaining government services. I told the pollster that the right answer is, d) reducing government spending. After all, the evidence is very clear that excessive government slows growth by diverting resources from the productive sector of the economy. Sadly, the poll only allowed the three options. So I said “reducing taxes” since that was my only choice that couldn’t be misinterpreted.
Another question was whether the retirement of the baby boom generation would create problems for health care. So I told the pollster that also made no sense. The retirement of the boomers would create big problems for Medicare and Medicaid, but that’s not the same as big problems for health care. So I refused to answer that question. In retrospect, I probably should have answered “yes” since government intervention has screwed up the entire health care system, even the parts that ostensibly are private.
To be fair, most of the questions were straightforward. Shockingly, I said that I disapproved of Obama’s performance. You’ll also be stunned to learn that I said I was a strong supporter of the Tea Party movement. And I was insulted to be asked whether I was male or female after a 10-minute conversation.
Last but not least, I avoided the temptation to mis-identify myself as a Pacific Islander. That should only be done when dealing with government.
One final note. This actually was my second experience with pollsters. The first time happened when I was walking by a pay phone in a shopping mall in Indianapolis about 15 years ago. The phone rang, nobody was around, so I figured I would answer and tell the person they had a wrong number. Much to my surprise, it was a polling company, which proceeded to ask me questions about a local congressional race. Even though I obviously couldn’t vote in that area, I went ahead and told them I was firmly against Congresswoman Carson.