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COMMENTARY

Assumption as Truth

As Texas Goes, so goes the nation? Maybe not so much.

It’s 6 pm. Dinner time. The phone rings. You’ve been fooled too many times before by someone selling something, so you ignore the rings and let the call go to your answering machine. If you’re lucky, the caller will leave a message.  Mostly they don’t. But, sometimes… That’s when you discovered that, in the heat of the race to send President Donald Trump back up those escalator steps, the caller is telling your answering machine that he/she is taking a survey. The next day you read a headline: 80% of Americans favor….name it: universal background checks, “assault weapons” ban, ammo mag limitations; same old, same old.

We’re not suggesting that every survey or poll is generally malcontented. And we imagine that pollsters often – not always – try to select partisan callers, democrats or republicans for instance, in order to skew the desired poll results. So let’s imagine for a moment – just for the sake of conversation even – that when the pollster/caller got 10 “hits” (people who picked up the phone and actually said, “Hello?”), 8 of the 10 respondents provided their opinions: As in “8” respondents out of 10 equals 80% “of Americans who favor…(add subject). Now we have our poll results and can go to media with our “findings.” Impressive, right?

So the media happily agrees to “sell” the story to the nation that 80% of Americans want this or that, are for or against…you know the game. In Texas, however, not everyone is so easily taken in, as a story in our “below the fold” (More Gun Headlines) points out.

It’s very easy to assume a percentage as truth, and nobody will question it.  Not “nobody.” Only those who disagree. So, as the Wall Street Journal – our personal favorite newspaper – wrote yesterday, “A recent Dallas Morning News/University of Texas poll found that 86% of registered voters in the state support background checks for gun buyers and more than half support a nationwide ban on high-capacity ammunition ‘clips’ with more than 10 bullets.” The caveats are the words, “registered voters.” We’re not doubting the WSJ’s or the Dallas Morning News’ reporting, but so many such polls suggest they lean towards inaccuracy. Not all polls are right, nor are they all wrong.  But if memory serves, the polls bet their reputations on Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump for the Presidency. We all know how that turned out.

What we’re getting at is polls can shoot for any target but that doesn’t mean that they’ll hit it every time. They just assume they will.

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