Don’t be influenced by polls

Published 10:10 am Sunday, September 15, 2013

Political polls, by their nature, are an inexact science and too often offer conflicting analysis of the same issue or political race.

The most recent polls rating the performance of Gov. Bobby Jindal are testimony as to why it’s misleading to place too much emphasis on the numbers. One poll shows Jindal with an approval rating of 50 percent; others have his ratings sagging into the low to mid 30 percent range. So who is one to trust?

Critical to the dialogue is polls can be easily massaged to satisfy the demands of those picking up the tab. A pollster hired by someone with a Republican bend, especially in the midst of a hotly-contested campaign, can manipulate the results by surveying only Republicans, thus giving his boss the desired results. The same holds true for Democrats.

With that in mind, voters in Washington Parish need to proceed with caution when interpreting polling data in the upcoming Congressional race for the Fifth District seat. The two frontrunners in the historic 14-candidate field are Neil Reiser, a Jindal disciple, and former Congressman Clyde Holloway, a campaign warhorse.

If one is to believe Jindal’s approval ratings are 50 percent, then it’s easy to conclude Reiser will ride the governor’s political coattails into office or what will likely be a November runoff.

But if Jindal’s ratings have dramatically tumbled, as some polls suggest, then Reiser could be on the outside looking in after October, thus opening the door for the rest of the field.

Candidates exploit poll numbers like political tools on the campaign trail, using one component to hammer home a particular point and another to tighten the screws on their opponent.

Voters should not be fooled or unduly influenced by polls, especially those being paid for by political parties or those with strong political ties. Too often, voters will misinterpret the results and either stay home, erroneously believing their candidate has no chance of winning, or pulling the lever on a less desirable candidate simply because they don’t want to “waste” a vote on a longshot.

The upcoming election is far too important for voters to be swayed by anything other than their own good judgment. Forget the polls and listen to your heart, where only you, the voter, controls the result.