OPINION

Opinionless polls?

Opinion polls do not actually reflect opinions, but rather impressions and unrationalized leanings. They never acknowledge that the spontaneous response to the question: «Why do you vote for this party?» is generally a defensive self-justification: «I am convinced it’s the best.» The second, more composed, response invariably demonstrates a subjectivism devoid of critical judgment: «My brother got his appointment thanks to them.» Loyalty to tradition also emerges at this stage: «We have always voted Right.» That a decisive proportion of the voting public demonstrates such a cretinous absence of judgment is the reason why political parties spend such exorbitant sums on their pre-election campaigns. Indeed, election results hinge on people who vote for the face they have seen plastered on the most billboards or appealing for their support on television, whether that face belongs to a basketball player, a former model or a famous «name.» And it is on these groundless choices that our lives, government policy, even our children’s future depends. The most likely retort to the heretical proposal that we avoid opinion polls would be «a democracy that fears nothing outlaws nothing.» May I counter that democracy is not a given, it is something that is striven for and achieved. Democracy lays down laws to curb practices that can undermine it: corruption in public life, the dissemination of unreliable news reports. I would say it faces the same risk from opinion polls…