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Letter to the editor, SA Express-news: On polls . . .

04 Oct

This letter was not published because it was not presented for the editor’s review—it was not presented to him because, based on considerable personal experience accumulated over a period of many years, I felt certain it would be rejected out-of-hand by the Express-News editor—as of this posting, I have never had a letter rejected by WordPress.com—they seem to welcome my letters—never a refusal.

Letter to the editor:

San Antonio Express-News

October 4, 2009

Re: Joann Smith’s letter entitled People want reform, published in Your Turn today, rebutted a letter by Col. James Vinci concerning columnist Froma Harrop. In a recent column, Froma quoted a poll by the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that 73 percent of doctors polled were in favor of a public insurance option in the administration’s proposed changes to health care. The colonel challenged that percentage, claiming that a recent poll showed that most doctors opposed HR 3200. The author of People want reform states that Col. Vinci failed to cite which poll, and that he charged Froma with hypocritically cherry-picking statistics.

In her letter today, Joann Smith states that “Poll after poll shows that Americans, across all demographic lines, support having a public insurance option available. Check polls by ABC, CBS, AARP, Time Magazine, Kaiser. Americans want the choice of a public option.

Congress, are you listening to the people?”

Really, Ms Adams? You gave us a very short list. Why did you not list some other well-known organizations, news and otherwise, that frequently conduct polls which, ultimately and predictably, show support for the current administration regardless of the subject. The polls may be tailored to the national health program, specifically to the public insurance option, or to the administration’s stand on immigration, legal and illegal, or to the recession, or to the administration’s stand on foreign policy—how to handle Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, Israel, North Korea, China, Poland, ad infinitum.

Here are some others you could have properly cited, but you did not:

Why not NBC?

Why not NPR?

Why not the Harvard School of Public Health?

It is notable that the Kaiser Family Foundation recently joined NPR (National Public Radio) and the Harvard School of Public Health in a new poll, Survey on the Role of Health Care Interest Groups, published September 30, 2009.

Here’s the online news announcement:

New NPR/Kaiser/Harvard Poll Examines Public’s Views of the Role of Health Care Interest Groups in the Health Care Debate

It must be noted that all three entities are far to the left of center—all can legitimately be considered hard-core far-left organizations. Predictably, the poll showed wide support for the administration’s efforts to create a national health care plan, including the public  option.

It’s also notable that “Representatives of the three organizations worked together to develop the survey questionnaire and to analyze the results, with NPR maintaining editorial control over its broadcasts on the surveys,” as stated in the news announcements.

In conclusion, some special notes for Ms Adams:

Poll results are presented in numerical figures, and the results can easily be manipulated by the nature of the questions, by the demographics of the people and the area being polled and how the respondents’ answers are analyzed—in fine, Ms Adams, figures don’t lie, but liars figure—a corollary is that polls don’t lie, but pollsters figure. Some pollsters know exactly what they want from a survey, and then manipulate the various parts of the poll to accomplish the goal they desire.

In the interest of full disclosure, it must be stated that the ability to manipulate poll results is not restricted to the political left—it is also available, and is used, by centrists and by the political right. Some use that ability far more than others, and some are far more adept at skewing the results.

In the matter of politics, particularly in the matter of political polls, one should cover all the venues—books, newspapers, movies, television and talk radio—one should read, look, listen and learn in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Just a suggestion: Every one that reads this posting will profit by picking up the TV remote and channel surfing until they find a news source that uses this motto:

“We report—you decide.”

Bias exists on the channel that uses the motto, “We report—you decide” but in far less degree than other, perhaps most, news sources. It’s everywhere, similar to the air we breathe. And just as our atmosphere at some locations contains more pollution than others, the degree to which political bias exists depends on the source, whether on television, on radio, in face-to-face gatherings or in print.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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