Figures don’t lie but liars can figure.
The 24 hour news cycle has driven the demand for more “talking heads” that can appear on news programs to provide information, perspectives and, all too often (unfortunately), utter nonsense.
Computer programmers have an acronym, GIGO (Garbage-In, Garbage-Out), that essentially says, ‘if you begin with wrong information the results will be no less flawed’: This is the problem with polls.
Surveys and polls are not new, but today nearly every industry depends on polls, surveys and focus groups to make decisions about how to conduct business to maximize the potential for success.
Consequently, our political leaders often stake out or modify their positions on issues to parallel what pollsters claimrepresents the concerns of likely voters.
When the pollsters get it wrong, the people who make decisions based on those polls will also–of necessity–get it wrong.
A person running from a mob is not leading that mob. He is simply running for his life. This is, all too often, what passes for “leadership” in America today. This is why so many candidates are said to “waffle,” going back and forth on their stated positions on critical issues. They are guiding their positions on the results of polls that may not even be providing accurate information.
Politicians often assume positions out of a fear of losing votes and, hence, an election. Instead of being true leaders who have a clear vision and, through demonstration of their leadership, convince people to vote for their vision, they chase voters―pandering to what they think voters want.
I have come to refer such political “leaders” as “human metronomes” or “human weathervanes.” Not unlike tumbleweeds, they go in the direction that perceived public opinion takes them.
All too often, the polls, upon which so many decisions are made, are fatally flawed.
Generally, polling surveys include a list of issues and the respondent is supposed to either select the one issue of greatest concern or to arrange the issues according to the degree to which they are of greatest concern.
The problem with multiple choice questions is that they prevent those responding to the questions consideration for all of the real-world possibilities.
I recently received a questionnaire that asked me to pick the number one concern I have. It included the threat of terrorism, the economic crisis, healthcare concerns and immigration.
The survey only permitted me to make one selection. The problem is that immigration is actually a major component in all of the other issues.
However, since the survey does not permit the participant to check off more than one item on the list of issues of greatest concern, anyone who was most concerned about terrorism would likely select the threat of terrorism as his/her most serious concern. Similarly, participants in the survey who may be concerned about losing their jobs might select the economic crisis as being their greatest concern. However, many Americans have lost their jobs to foreign workers and this fact may be an important issue for respondents, but the way that the survey is structured, immigration would not be selected.
When all of the results are tallied by the polling company, immigration may well be on the bottom of a list of issues, notwithstanding the fact that immigration is actually the most important issue on that list because it is a major factor in nearly every other issue that concerns Americans.
Today, understandably, we are told the majority of Americans are most concerned about the threat of a terror attack. Indeed, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, and other high-ranking members of the U.S. intelligence community have publicly stated that ISIS plans to carry out deadly terror attacks inside the United States this year. Consider the February 9, 2016 CNN report, “Top intelligence official: ISIS to attempt U.S. attacks this year.”
That troubling report included this excerpt:
Clapper warned that ISIS and its eight branches were the No. 1 terrorist threat, and that it was using the refugee exodus from violence in Iraq and Syria to hide among innocent civilians in order to reach other countries.
Clapper said ISIS was “taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow,” adding that they were “pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers.”
ISIS fighters have reportedly seized Syrian passport facilities with machines capable of manufacturing passports.
The testimony follows the director of National Intelligence’s release of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”
The assessment notes that “approximately five dozen” ISIS-linked people were arrested in the U.S. during 2015.
Entry of terrorists into the United States is indisputably the domain of immigration.
Additionally, the FBI has reported that it has multiple terror investigations ongoing in all 50 states.
The 9/11 Commission determined that multitudes of failures of the immigration system enabled not only the 19 terrorists who carried out the hijackings and attacks of September 11, 2001, but other terrorists as well to enter the United States and embed themselves. Indeed, since the 9/11 Commission Report was published, a series of additional terror attacks were carried out in the United States by aliens who gamed the visa process and/or the immigration system to acquire political asylum, lawful immigrant status and even United States citizenship.
The bottom line is that successfully combating terrorism absolutely requires that our immigration system operates effectively to prevent terrorists from entering the United States in the first place. Effective immigration enforcement can also thwart the efforts of terrorists who seek to embed themselves in our country as they go about their deadly preparations. However, this nexus between immigration and national security is not a component of the polls.
The economy is always a key issue for American voters. In fact, when Bill Clinton first ran for President, it was reported that his campaign offices had posted a simple sign in the walls of those offices that stated simply, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
Consider how many Americans have lost their jobs to foreign workers, including within high-tech industries who have been welcomed into the United States with H-1B visas and other such visas.
Again, immigration is a critical component.
All too often, because most people are conformists and eager to “go along to get along,” they form their opinions on the basis of polls. Few people have the guts to swim against the tide of public opinion. If there is “safety in numbers,” then it is far safer to engage in “group think” and jump on the “bandwagon” rather than to go against popular opinion.
National Geographic has been airing a series known as “Brain Games” that explores how the human mind functions. Recently, an episode aired that is well worth watching, “Peer Pressure.” In this program, people actually decided to follow the majority even when their own instincts told them that the majority was getting it wrong.
Another episode of Brain Games, “Power of Persuasion,” provided insight into how easy it is to manipulate decisions people make, convincing them to modify their positions to coincide with what they believe the majority accepted.
However, when the findings of polls are at odds with the demands of major campaign contributors, all too many politicians seek to create illusions that they are meeting the demands of the majority of constituents while making certain that their contributors are getting what they are paying for.
Even when immigration is seen as a major factor in the polls, politicians create illusions by spending huge sums of taxpayer money on worthless programs such as deploying unmanned drones along the border rather than manned Border Patrol helicopters. Government studies have shown that drones are very costly but virtually worthless. Manned helicopters can be extremely effective and are generally far less expensive.
Duplicitous politicians also propose additional “solutions” that are ineffective and posit explanations that, when carefully scrutinized, reveal just how outrageous they are.
Such a false claim is the argument that, since we cannot deport all of the millions of illegal aliens already present in the United States, we must deal with them–however, not before we “secure the U.S./Mexican border.” No laws are enforced all of the time. Indeed, it could be successfully argued that motor vehicle laws are less enforced and less enforceable than our immigration laws. Yet no one would argue to do away with drunk driving laws, texting while driving laws or speed laws.
Yet where immigration is concerned, the fact that we cannot enforce the laws 100% of the time provides fatuous justification for not enforcing our immigration laws against millions of illegal aliens present in the United States.
America has 50 border states, yet we are constantly told that we simply need to secure the U.S./Mexican border, while ignoring that aliens enter the United States by running the northern border, stowing away on ships or by entering legally as non-immigrant (temporary) visitors who then go on to violate the terms of their admission.
The obvious solution is to effectively enforce the immigration laws from within the interior of the United States – but this would conflict with the demands of the campaign contributors.
It has been said that the only polls that counts are the polls that are open on Election Day.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on Front Page Magazine.