We live in the era of permanent campaigns. Elections which used to be contained within the month or year of the actual voting, now form a constant backdrop to the democracy. Alongside the toxic commentary and baseless opinions that dominate cable “news”, voters can see a constant parade of poll results. What we the people aren’t shown, is the question order, context, or full spectrum of questions found in the polls. As with all reporting, it is the information that we don’t see or hear that demonstrate the bias or intent of the source.
The original intent of political polling is customer service; a politician or business asks the customers what their feelings are in order to better design the service. But polling has taken on a very different role in U.S. politics today. Winning the “battle” of public opinion on specific bills is the key to the process; prove you can drive approval, and networks, newspapers, and magazines will follow your cues. Prove you can drive a story, and political allies and fundraisers will flock to your banner. Polling, and the poor standard of reporting that accompanies the art, are the foundation for the straw-man strategy that political operatives have now perfected.