Witt: Consider carefully before participating in polling calls

Between now and Nov. 6, people will be getting phone calls polling political perspectives (nice alliteration).

Actually, some are likely to get numerous such calls from different sources and some have already received such calls.

There are a few things to keep in mind about these pollsters and some things to consider doing when getting such a call.

First, the person receiving the call should think about asking who has commissioned the poll.

If the caller cannot, or will not, provide that information, the call recipient might want to refuse to participate. This is important because sometimes, polls commissioned by a particular candidate or party may be push polls.

A push poll is one in which the questions are designed to evoke certain feelings favorable to the person or party who has commissioned the poll. Questions similar to, “Since (so-and-so) has failed to (do so-and-so) would you be inclined to vote against (him, her)?” might be asked.

Most of the time, polls will start with a general question like, “Do you consider yourself more Democrat, Republican or independent?” And then the next question might be, “Who did you vote for in the last general election?”

A lot of people simply move from question to question without thinking about the consequences of their answer.

When asked for whom they voted, one should remember this country still has the secret ballot and revealing how one votes should not be taken lightly. Why would anyone be prepared to tell a complete stranger how they voted?

It’s the same with exit polling, although there doesn’t seem to be much of that around here.

Exit polling is conducted when someone asks a person exiting the polling station how they voted.

This is a most flagrant form of intrusion into the secret ballot.

Of course, news agencies want this information because they like to try to predict how the election is shaping up.

It would seem, though, polling people at limited voting stations would not yield accurate information for an entire county or region anyway. And why would a person who has just cast a secret ballot want to reveal how that vote was cast?

Sometimes phone polls can be quite lengthy, spanning 15 or 20 minutes. In these cases, the questions become more and more precise, trying to discover one’s views on various specific issues or even several different candidates. It can become a tedious process.

The point of all this polling is to provide information to a party or a candidate, often so they can alter their campaigns to address the issues of more people.

This may be a good thing, if the candidate is sincere about doing so, but if the result is additional campaigning designed to simply make the opposing candidate look as though he or she will not act on it, nothing is gained.

Each person receiving a phone poll call must decide if giving out information about their voting preferences is worthwhile, desirable or even safe.

Getting back to the initial point, if the caller won’t identify who has commissioned the poll, perhaps the best response should be, “Thank you, but I don’t care to participate.”

After all, the pollsters don’t care a whit about your opinion until election time is near and even less once the election is over.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.