Today’s response to the latest Weekly Photo Challenge from WordPress has a bit of a monologue, so please bear with me.
As the United States shifts into third gear of a presidential election year, polling companies are shifting into an even higher gear to churn out all sorts of facts and figures about what Americans think, believe, and opine about.
I have written about this before (you can jump here), but I think polling is silly and nearly akin to reading chicken entrails. I don’t understand how 1,012 adults can represent a country as diverse as the United States. However, there is another reason why I am leery of polls. That reason is because sometimes, sometimes, the opinions expressed by the majority of the respondents are simply wrong.
My case in point comes from a poll I saw last month while walking around the halls of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. The museum had an exhibit about the year 1939 and part of that presentation showcased a poll published by LIFE magazine in that year. In September of that year, World War II had started after Germany invaded Poland. In the magazine, Americans were asked what should the United States do. Here are the results…
In 2012, you would be hard pressed to find an American who thinks that fighting for the Allies against the Axis powers in World War II was a bad idea. However, in 1939, there were plenty of folks who thought otherwise.
According to this poll, twenty-nine percent of the respondents thought it would be okay to see materials to both Germany, Japan, and Italy as long as aid went to England and France also. Another twenty-five percent believed no aid should be given. A final nine percent had no opinion about what the country should do in the global conflict. Total all of those people up and that means that 63% of Americans (technically 63.1% if you include the 1/10 of 1% respondents who said we should aid only Germany) at the time thought we should stay out of the battle or assist the Axis.
I am thankful there was a time in our history when leaders led and did not stick their fingers in the air to test the popular will. Listening to the masses has its place and time, but there are places and times when the masses are dead wrong, which has this week’s theme.