Columns

2010.02.24 Odd man out

on . Posted in By The Way

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.

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