Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Skewed Surveys

When I come face-to-face with God, I'm sure I'll be so astonished that I'll forget to thank the Almighty for the greatest technological invention of the past 50 years: caller ID. Computers, cell phones, the Internet, Stephen Colbert—yes, these are all great advancements in the history of humanity. But none compares with caller ID, because it's the one form of technology that enables me to choose to ignore every caller who is not Stephen Colbert.

So a few minutes ago when the phone readout identified a call from "Unknown" at the number "000-000-0000," I at first ignored it, as I normally would. That's not Stephen's number, and he's not unknown. But something told me to answer it. I did, and I hit the jackpot—a political survey. Woo-hoo! This is going to be fun!

Here's how the Q&A went, dramatically condensed for your reading pleasure:
Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "very closely," how closely are you following the presidential campaign?
A: 1 (so far, so good)

Q: If the election were held today, would you vote for John McCain or Barack Obama?
A: Neither (total silence on other end: have I provoked shock and awe?)

[Interviewer recovers]
Q: If the election were held today, in the Colorado U.S. Senate race, would you vote for Republican Bob Schaffer or Democrat Mark Udall?
A: Neither. Hey, if you're going to ask more questions about individual candidates, my answer will be the same, because there are more than two candidates running, and I take third-party and independent candidates into consideration. (Interviewer says something like, "Uh, okay.")

Q: Would you be more inclined to vote for a pro-choice candidate who upholds a woman's right to choose or a pro-life candidate who wants to make abortion illegal?
A: Neither. There are ways of being pro-choice that are not based exclusively on a woman's right to choose, and there are ways of being pro-life that aren't exclusively based on making abortion illegal. The question is fundamentally flawed, because the definitions are flawed, narrow, and presume an either-or response.
I suspect the survey sponsor simply threw out my responses since they didn't fit the prescribed pattern. But for five brief minutes, I had a chance to expose an unsuspecting interviewer to the reality that there are more than two candidates for most positions and more than two sides to every issue.

I'll sleep well tonight.