The Problem with Polls

I have no particular problem with this post from Kevin Drum where he would like to see some different polling questions about the Ground Zero mosque (though I do think they reflect some naivite about the founders' intentions in building the mosque, as telegraphed pretty strongly by its proposed name).  I think the underlying desire to raise awareness about how small changes to poll question wording can make big changes to poll outcomes is a good one.

Here is my problem with all polls like this.  Consider the question

Do you oppose construction of the Ground Zero mosque?

How I answer this is influenced by the unstated intent of the poller or whomever is paying for the poll.  That is, the answer is likely be used as justification for some government action, in this case confiscation of the property rights of the owners of the land by not allowing them to do with the land as they wish.

In this nanny state of micro-fascism, we have a very hard time separating opposition to something from be desirous of government intervention.  For example, I oppose teenagers spending all day watching crappy TV and playing PS3 games rather than reading.  I oppose overcooked steaks.  I oppose people who take forever in buffet lines, selecting one leaf of lettuce at a time.  I oppose airplane bathrooms that smell bad.  I oppose using "incent" as a verb.  I oppose writers who have really long passages without paragraph breaks.  I oppose commenters who constantly harass me about my horrible proof-reading rather than just getting over it and accepting that I suck.

However, in none of these instances would I advocate government action.  Now, of course, I go further than most, in that I also oppose government action in any number of more controversial activities that I also personally oppose but would never ask to be banned, including prostitution, meth use polygamy, driving without a seat belt, and pulling tags off mattresses.   So a better question would be:

Do you oppose government action to block construction of the Ground Zero mosque?


  1. DrTorch:

    "meth use polygamy" What's that!? Multiple partners getting cranked together? Ugh. Don't you ever proof your posts?

  2. MJ:

    I oppose using “incent” as a verb.

    Thanks. I knew I wasn't the only one who gets irritated by this.

  3. Mesa Econoguy:

    Kevin Dumb should incent meth use polygamy using overcooked steaks.

  4. LanceMagnum:

    >> Kevin Dumb should incent meth use polygamy using overcooked steaks.

    LOL! I enjoyed that one.

  5. Henry Bowman:

    Well, despite a typo (lack of a comma), I completely agree with this post. I think those opposed to the facility should picket it endlessly, and announce well in advance that they plan to do so. This really has little or nothing to do with the U.S. Constitution, by the way, but it does have a great deal to do with property rights, which I regard as close to sacrosanct -- without such rights, we are doomed to an existence in poverty (unless you are one of the ruling class).

    Some Muslims realize that the proposed facility is a potentially serious problem. I'm pretty confident, though, that some Middle East rich person(s) or state is funding the facility.

  6. Henry Bowman:

    I should add that apparently the U. S. Government is actually paying for Imam Rauf's travels to Indonesia and some other countries (mostly Arab countries). Why in hell is the U.S. government funding any religious leader to go anywhere?!? There are reports that this is the 3rd time this fellow has been paid by the U.S. government for his travels. This is completely, totally, wrong.

  7. Buddy Y.:

    I am all for property rights in general. However, consider that religious institutions enjoy non-profit tax-exempt status so I think it is well within the rights of citizens and the government that represents them to have a say in how these organizations use their property.

  8. Henry Bowman:

    The issue is becoming even more of a problem. Now, the Wicked Witch of the West Nancy Pelosi says she supports an investigation of groups opposing the building of a mosque near ground zero in New York. This woman really is a huge problem.

  9. EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy:


    No, it is not.

    Not one whit more then it would be appropriate to tell the Baptists where to build or when to hold services.

    Which is to say, not at all.

    Don't want them to build that facility? Get together with some like minded folks (and there are plenty) and pool your resources. I promise that for enough money they will be happy to relocate.

  10. Noumenon:

    oppose people who take forever in buffet lines, selecting one leaf of lettuce at a time. I oppose airplane bathrooms that smell bad. I oppose using “incent” as a verb.

    I love you man.

    Someone should do a study on how much of the American public answers polls with an eye toward consciously affecting the media response and how much just answers according to which side they want to affiliate with.

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  12. IgotBupkis:

    > However, in none of these instances would I advocate government action.

    Well, I dunno, the Strunk & White Police does have a nice ring to it, racist though it be...


  13. Bill Drissel:

    The Ground Zero Trophy
    by Bill Drissel
    August 16, 2010

    It's not a mosque: it's a trophy in the literal, fundamental sense of the word.

    "In the Greek city-states of the Archaic period, the tropaion would be set up on the battlefield itself, usually at the site of the "turning point" (Gk. tropê) at which the routed enemy's phalanx broke and ran." Wikipedia

    It's not a mosque: it's a monument to the "turning point" at which Islam began to defeat civilization. Morally and intellectually weak Americans have been fooled by the pronouncements of Muslim spokesmen.

    "Within the Islamic theological framework, the concept of taqiyya ... refers to the practice of precautionary dissimulation whereby believers may conceal their faith when under threat, persecution or compulsion. ... Muslims and Islamists are sometimes accused of practicing taqiyya in contemporary political debates." Wikipedia

    Because of the practices of taqiyya, non-Muslims are well advised to doubt the words of political Muslims.

  14. Plungerman:

    Must draw the line at mattress label removal. If this were to become commonplace where would we be? Such a suggestion really incent me.

    As for the Mosque/Victory_dance Center let them go ahead and build it. They will be getting plenty of unsolicited lunch orders from the pulled pork shop up the street.