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Poll questions are shallow

May 8, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
It's only May and the election is already gearing up.

On Sunday I was disturbed by a phone call from some pollster who was apparently collecting data on how North Dakotans feel about the Senate race between Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp. I was curious about what the guy would ask, so I decided to let him go through his spiel.

As I suspected, the problem with the poll questions was that they were shallow and stereotypical and didn't allow for in depth responses. The pollster was likely from another state or perhaps a different country since he asked me if I am a registered voter. He fumbled a bit when I told him that North Dakota does not have voter registration but, yes, I am going to vote since I have voted in every local, state and national election since I was 18. I told him I am a reporter and he still wanted to ask me the questions. He asked me where I get my news from and, when I said it is from a combination of the newspaper, the TV, the radio and the Internet, he stuttered and told me I had to just pick one answer. Only one answer was allowed for all of the questions throughout.

Then the guy read about three outrageous statements said by each candidate's opponent and then asked me if hearing all the nonsense had changed my impression of either Berg or Heitkamp. He sounded mildly disappointed when I kept saying "no." This is probably the ammo that will be used in the attack ads that we are about to be barraged with. There wasn't much the pollster said that I didn't already know about the candidates. I've been around long enough to know Berg's and Heitkamp's career histories and their positions and to be able to make an educated guess about what each would do in the Senate. I've also met both candidates. That may not be the case with every voter, particularly those who are new to the state, so maybe the ads will have a greater impact on people who aren't familiar with them. I hope not, though.

I hope people will take the time to actually get to know Heitkamp and Berg, to go to some candidate forums and ask good questions about issues that affect their lives, and vote based on what they actually know, not just on what they have heard from a pollster or a campaign ad. Voters have a responsibility to base their decision and the future of this country on more than a 30 second campaign commercial.


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