Should Political Polls Influence Political Decision Making?

1019 words - 4 pages

“In no country is public opinion so powerful as in the United States” stated British journalist James Brice in 1900 (Erikson, 3). He was very perceptive as the use of polls of the public was increasing. Politicians traditionally have the goal of re-election. Because of this, many politicians are swayed by the results of polls of the public. The question is, of course, are the political polls correct and how much they should effect and influence political decision-making. This has been something that politicians have had to ask themselves for many years, and in the end there is four main lines of thought on political polls. Walter Lippman, George Gallup, Herbert Blummer, and Lindsay Rogers generated these thoughts in an effort to explain the problems with polls and how much, if any, consideration politicians should give to them.
Walter Lippman was a major critic of the polls as well as bit of an elitist. He believed that the mass public could be influenced by elite propaganda and therefore were incapable of making the best decisions. The general population that is polled does not have all of the latest, correct information to make an educated informed decision (Erikson, 3). When Lippman was speaking of this it was the early 1920s were people only received the news if they brought a newspaper and then it was limited to how much information was published. Today you can find out almost anything on the Internet, which in some was discredits this line of thought a bit. Lippman thought that while the leaders of the country should be elected by the public, it would be best if scientifically oriented people were to make the public policy as they had a clearer picture of what was currently happening (Erikson,3). To a certain point, I think he’s correct. I wouldn’t want a recent high school graduate to be the United State’s Surgeon General, I would want a person who has gone to medical school and understands the information that they are given. However, I do believe that the government should pay some attention to the polls when they are told that their constituents want or need something. At this time the public can be better informed if they wish to be, however when Walter Lippman was developing his ideals on polls, I would agree that the public was not educated enough to make many decisions.
George Gallup was on the other side of the sphere from Walter Lippman. He greatly distrusted the intellectual experts and the elite and thought that polls were the perfect bases for the public to be heard (Erikson, 3). Gallup thought that instead of listening to self-interest motivated lobbyist and politicians should base their political thought on what the most recent poll revealed. Gallup believed that the polls were a mandate from the people that politicians are honor bound to uphold (Erikson, 3-4). I agree that if the polls are extremely for or against something then the government should pay attention to it. Gallup developed and...

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