2010.02.24 Odd man out

Written by David Green.


There are people who make a living by annoying other people. It pays if you’re in the right business, such as working for a company engaged in opinion polls.

I recently came across an article about a poll by Rasmussen Reports, purveyor of “the most comprehensive public opinion data anywhere.” “...that I’ve never heard of,” I might add. Fortunately, I’ve never been called away from dinner to answer any of their survey questions.

A few of the company’s recent polls have discovered that:

• 47% believe U.S. can win in Afghanistan;

• 49% favor building new nuclear plants;

• 47% blame global warming on planetary trends and 41% says climate change is no longer a serious problem;

• 36% look forward to Valentine’s Day and 20% dread it.

You think I’m making that last one up, right? Wrong. If your business is tied up in polling people, you have to get on the telephone and start polling people, no matter how silly the question.

The concept of making a poll just to make a poll came to mind when I saw a poll with the title “What Did You Do Last Week?”

I learned fascinating information such as this:

• 85% of Americans watched the news on television. Those over 40 years of age are much more likely to than younger people.

I’m pretty deep in a minority already on that one. I never watch television news. Can’t stand the stuff. Makes me want to throw objects at the screen.

I’m referring to “local” news, all the garbage that the Toledo stations consider worthy of reportage. I could make a newspaper with a similar format. Round up every bit of bad news I could find in Morenci, Fayette and the area. And you know what would happen? Readership would skyrocket. People would love it. Screaming headlines about traffic accidents and loose dogs. Our crime is much tamer than Toledo’s, but with effort it could be done.

Seven parking tickets issued! Front page coverage of every suspicious situation. Just what sort of damage was done in that domestic assault?

That’s how to get 85% of local residents reading the Observer, and have I ever gotten sidetracked.

I don’t watch TV news. I listen to the news on public radio.

Sixty-three percent of Americans engaged in a sport or physical exercise last week. I could have answered “yes” to the question, but only if details weren’t required. We went walking once. I ran up and down the stairs once. Not much.

Sixty percent of Americans went out to dinner last week; 86% of those making more than $100,000. Count me out once again. My wife suggested dinner out Friday night, but I stayed late working on Parents’ Pride. I suggested it Saturday night—some fish at the Legion—but Colleen fell asleep after staying up half the previous night.

Fifty-three percent had friends visit. Not us. We were seldom home. This poll is actually from Super Bowl week and Rasmussen believes that question might have been skewed.

Fifty-nine percent found time to read a book; women more than men and government employees more than the remainder of us. I read old New Yorkers or Rolling Stones every night in bed, but usually not books.

Here’s a puzzling one: 46% attended a church service and 51% did not. That leaves a mysterious 3% who did neither. Come to think of it, I think I’m among that 3%.

Pastors are doing much better than theatre owners. Only 14% of Americans attended a movie theatre and finally I’m in the majority. I watched one entire movie and finished another, but it was all in my living room.

Forty percent of adults had an alcoholic beverage—Republicans more than Democrats—and married people drank more often than unmarried. I would like to be part of this crowd, but I really don’t like the taste of alcohol. Even wine tastes bitter. But vinegar is fermented stuff and I had a lot of good balsamic vinegar in the past week—on rice, on the weird stew thing I made, on salad. It wasn’t exactly a beverage, but I had my alcohol right there with the married Republicans.

OK, Rasmussen, I admit it. I am not a normal American, but I didn’t really need a poll to figure that out.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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