Public Opinion Polls Useless in Policymaking

Cal Thomas | Syndicated columnist | Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Public Opinion Polls Useless in Policymaking

People who make policy should ignore public opinion polls. That's the conclusion of a new Cato Institute study. Polling is an inherently flawed enterprise that fails to measure the real interests of respondents and offers no informed guidance to policymaking.

I might add that we don't know how much those being polled actually know about a subject and that the questions are often skewed to produce a desired answer. Sometimes the pollster wants to make his client feel good and keep sending him a check, so the pollster has a vested interest in how the poll turns out.

The author of the Cato study is Robert Weissberg, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He argues, "public opinion polling measures the wishes and preferences of respondents, neither of which reflect the costs or risks associated with a policy."

I couldn't agree more. We've needed this kind of information for some time.