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Is Public Opinion Really the Public's Opinion?

by Tisha Casida, published

There are approximately 307 million Americans living in the United States of America, and we can gauge the ‘public opinion’ of most of them. Or can we? We talk about public opinion like it is a science, but I think it is an art– and most of it is in the interpretation of the data and the way that these data are gathered in the first place.

Already nearly in full swing, the election year brings with it a bunch of talking heads that use various polls to spout their opinion and ideas about what will happen in November. And this is one year where I think that the ‘apathetic’ and uncounted group of Americans (who are often not a part of public polling), may start to affect the reliability of these already relatively weak indicators.

Yes, there are always predictions that can be made, but unless they are counting the entire country’s population as a sample (an impossible task), there is still a margin of error, and that margin of error is the margin of doubt of one poll or one statistic being able to gauge public opinion.

With the humility to say that I don’t really know, and the confidence to say that they don’t really know either, I want to remind voters that all numbers can be manipulated, all questions and data can be leading and/or deceiving, and many people who have an opinion never give it to the people asking for it. And when the silent people of this country act, be it with their vote or their dollar, the economy and communities in which we live will respond. We will be better off for it, and we will see history being made as we change our destiny according to the people at the bottom of this pyramid.

Growing up in the marketing industry, I have so much respect for people who work with public opinion – it is certainly a trade that is both interesting and useful to the marketing of products and services (and political candidates). However, as someone who has spoken with literally thousands of individuals, I feel assured in saying that it is impossible to truly gauge public opinion in a way that captures all of the public– so don’t give it more credit than what it is worth.

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