OK, Point 1 on why polls are for nerds, at least usually: it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I read a Washington Post blog article on some recent polling from the Tarrance Group for Politico and George Washington University that I think has limited usefulness at best, and I proceed to start writing about it immediately. That’s nerdy.
But while there is much we can learn from public opinion polls, especially in politics, it’s important to keep them in perspective — particularly the perspective of media framing and institutional norms of journalism that are usually all but allergic to a long view.
Politics aggravates a lot of people. Politics confuses a lot of people. And because of this, politics disaffects a lot of people. According to a May 21, 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press,
More than three-quarters (76%) agree that “elected officials in Washington lose touch with the people pretty quickly.” More than half (51%) agree that “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does.”
This condition, clearly, is most troubling for a political system and a larger political culture committed (at least in theory) to a democracy grounded in the active participation of citizens. We find ourselves in an irksome paradox: the shape of our politics can’t improve without active citizen involvement, but active citizen involvement is depressed to a large extent due to the state of our politics. What to do? The Political Denizens believe that informed discourse on our public life is a crucial piece to this puzzle.