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The Polling Process

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The Polling Process

The Polling Process

The American political system relies in a great part upon the opinions of the American people. To be an effective politician, an official must have some means by which to gauge public opinion. Policy formation does not begin at the voting booths, it is created as a result of intense polling prior to any vote being cast. Surveys are a vital part of our democracy.

Learning how to conduct a survey provided insight into the mindset of political groups. Usually my classmates and I would be on the other end of the telephone. Instead of being the one annoyed at the interruption of our busy lives by a stranger, we were the eager pollsters anxious to meet our quota of responses. We drew our sample randomly from the telephone book. Who knew so many listed numbers are actually disconnected? If we could not reach one of our assigned numbers, we went one number up or down on our page of the telephone book. Polling was probably a lot easier before the days of caller ID. Some people would answer the phone ready to kill after seeing “private” register on their caller ID. Telemarketers have certainly made life harder for honest surveyors. Before actually administering the survey, one often had to win the person being polled’s trust by assuring them that we were absolutely not selling anything. Many people were still understandably suspicious due to the fact that somehow their number had been “randomly selected”. Hearing that the survey was for a college class made it seem a bit less threatening. If one could get this far into the phone call process, usually one could get through the entire survey without hearing the dreaded sound of a hang-up.

There were fifteen questions in all in our survey. The wording had been carefully considered so as not to lead anyone a certain way, and in the case of the demographic questions, not to offend anyone. The first question regarding vote registration revealed that a majority of the residents of Abilene are registered to vote. This is surprising considering the low number of voters actually turning out to vote. This is fact is representative of America as a whole. It is fairly easy to register to vote these days- just check a box when you renew your driver’s license. However, the voting process takes a tad more effort. Many people don’t bother to vote if they aren’t familiar with the issues or candidates. It is debatable whether or not it is better to have a voter who has formulated some kind of opinion or no voter at all.

The responses to the third question surprised me. This question asked which political party the person being polled was affiliated with. I thought that West Texas’ conservative nature would lend itself to being heavily Republican. The results indicated that twenty-one percent of those polled considered themselves a Democrat, forty-eight percent considered themselves Republican, twenty percent considered themselves independent, and ten percent considered themselves something else. While forty-eight percent is a large number, one would

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