All posts tagged: polling

chasing after vs. articulating ‘public opinion’

In The Symbolic Uses of Politics, Murray Edelman had this to say about public opinion polling: A related kind of ambiguity pervades political process as well: uncertainty about how much public support or opposition for programs exists or can be created. Because opinion is constructed and volatile, all indicators of it are problematic. Poll reports are therefore another device for the reduction of ambiguity to clarity. Polled individuals are abstracted both from their everyday lives and from political discussion and action shared with others. Their opinions are therefore also abstract — not necessarily related to any course they would pursue when involved in political activities different from answering an interviewer (or, perhaps, voting). In this artificial situation expressed opinion depends upon verbal cues together with changing memories of past situations and anticipations of future ones. Polls and surveys generate numbers that have the dramaturgical look of hard data and the epistemological look of shifting fantasies. In his essay “Public Opinion Does Not Exist,” Pierre Bourdieu similarly deflates polling as an elaborate trick that elites use to …