Column on Survey Says!

Survey Says!

Tibor R. Machan
        Very, very rarely I am contacted by some survey organization and I usually volunteer to answer the questions posed to me.  Just a few minutes ago a taped interviewer, identifying herself as calling for the Rasmussen Group, called me up and I answered all the questions I was asked.  Some of these dealt with my views on President Obama’s current and expected performance and I answered pretty much as anyone who knows me would expect; I said, in essence, that his economic policies sucked.  
        I was also asked, however, a bunch of questions unrelated to my views, having to do with my ethnicity, age, income, etc.  I reluctantly answered these except for one that I lied about.  When asked my race I said "other" instead of "white."  That was in my effort to discourage the outfit from taking race into consideration as surveys are being conducted.  Answering such questions seem to me to amount to complicity in racial profiling, although the others, about my income or age, came pretty close to doing something like that too. 

        It is really annoying that a major, by many and by most mainstream news outfits regarded legitimate survey group engages in such profiling, something often condemned when done by, say, the police in the effort to flight crime.  Why is it OK to deploy such profiling when people’s views are being recorded?  For one, I have held my views back when I earned a fraction of my present income, when I was a fraction of my present age, etc., etc.  So what do these have to do with what an American citizen thinks about politics or President Obama’s performance in office?  
        I was also asked about taxes, whether I consider raising or lowering them a good thing, as well as government involvement in the economy, ditto.  Why would my age or race or income have any bearing on this?  (And why was I not asked whether I consider the questions I was asked germane to figuring out what Americans think about foreign policy and the economy?)
        OK, so those folks are supposed to know a thing or two about gathering information this way, by phone, on a Sunday afternoon, but some of what they did sounds fishy to me.  Especially at a time when much of the citizenry throughout the country has given up on racism, agism, and similar kinds of categorizations with which bigots tend to assess the merits of someone’s thoughts and actions.  I am convinced that there should be a lot more about why one holds this or that view in the list of questions being posed–"Why do you consider raising taxes wrong?" "Why do you consider it wrong for the government to intrude on people’s economic lives?"  OK, this would take a bit longer to discover about us all–although they could do what they did here, namely select four or five possible answers and ask you to select from these–but it may be worth it since then it would foster critical thinking rather than political demagoguery. 
        Yes, that is one purpose of getting this information, namely, for politicians to gauge what the public is like so they can then appeal to their various irrelevant attributes and tempt them with offers they aren’t likely to refuse.  What age are you? Well, if there are lots of you that age, I will promise you retirement benefits and such.  And so it goes for the other attributes that should have no bearing on anyone’s political opinions, given that politics is supposedly about public affairs, not one’s personal tastes and preferences.  Ah, but who cares about what politics should be about?  It is about bringing home the bacon, is it not?
        Well, these are my reactions to being quizzed in the way the Rasmussen people go about quizzing those whom they contact by phone.  I can fully appreciate it, by the way, that when the government takes its census, many people would find it very annoying and even inappropriate to be questioned along these similar lines.
        Just thought I would make a public response to the Rasmussen people’s approach to recording my views.  It sadly tends not to be so much about my views but about the type or kind of sort of person I am, which should be completely off limits for responsible surveyors. 
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