Archive for ObamaCare

The Problem with Polling

Posted in current events, opinion with tags , , , on October 1, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In watching Real Time with Bill Maher last week, I’m realizing that polling of public opinion is inherently flawed.

In a discussion of the first enforcement of Obama’s health care reform this week–not allowing insurance companies to drop coverage for children with pre-existing conditions–one of the members of the panel, Andrew Breitbart, editor of The Drudge Report, threw out a poll number in making one of his points: “Obamacare was shoved down [everyone’s] throats… 70% of Americans were against Obamacare.”

This follows a string of other poll numbers that makes me wondering to whom they are asking these questions. I’ve yet to get a phone call or an email asking my opinion on anything. And, though I realize it is a logical fallacy to say what I’m about to, the majority of people I know were in favor of “Obamacare.” When a poll comes out that says that 20% of Americans still believe that Obama is a Muslim, despite all of the evidence otherwise, I wonder how the numbers would have turned out if different people, maybe people with some common sense who take a few moments out of the day to think for themselves.

But the biggest problem I see with the poll numbers is that so many people use the numbers as undeniable truth. When Breitbart threw the statistic that 70% of Americans were against health care reform, it was as if he had personally gone out and asked all 300 million or so people in the United States, and had done the necessary calculations do determine that, yes, it was exactly 70% of Americans that were against “Obamacare.”

Never mind that this sort of polling only does a random sampling of Americans. And never mind that public opinion of something can change as more information is gathered and processed. And never mind that, even within the random sampling, there is always a margin of error. The “70%” that Breitbart is talking about could really be 72%, which would be in his favor, or possibly 68%, which would be in the favor of everyone that can’t afford health coverage that now can under this reform.

70% is 70%, always and forever, the Gospel according to Pew.

It’s truly upsetting to me that people can spew out poll numbers without really knowing the context. Anyone who has ever taken a class that covered the basics of how to avoid bias know that there are several ways to state percentages: the majority or the minority. Each perspective puts people in a different mindset: “70% of Americans are against Obamacare” makes it seem like a bad thing, whereas “30% of Americans support health care reform” makes it seem like something positive that needs more support.

Even the percentage is completely wrong. In every study that I’ve ever seen or read about, there is never a clear cut “do you or don’t you” approach to responding to polls. There is always a spectrum, a scale of one to five, or one to ten, of how much you agree or disagree with a statement. Which means, how does that 70% break down? Are 50% strongly against, and the other 20% simply against? Could 10% be strongly against, 15% against, and 25% slightly against? Does the 70% include anyone who didn’t have an opinion either way?

Bottom line is, all polls have context. If you don’t know the context of the poll numbers, or even if you don’t consider the source, you are unwittingly spreading false information.

Politics and the Playground: Democrats are Geeks and Republicans are Bullies

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Normally, I don’t let my political views sway what I write about. I believe I mentioned earlier–perhaps a couple of times–that my views are strictly my views, and I rarely, if ever, push them on people.

That being said: Republicans are bullies.

And also: Democrats are geeks.

And further still: Politicians are children.

And one more for good measure: Americans are just as childish.

If anyone watched any part of the health care vote on any news outlet last night, they were treated to probably one of the most immature demonstrations of American governmental procedure of all time. Everything you expected (Tea Party protesters shouting racial slurs at House Democrats), and some that you didn’t (A Republican calling Rep. Bart Stupak a “baby killer”), and some that are just so completely off the wall you’d think it was a surrealist play or something (Bricks being through through Democratic Party office windows).

The House was rarely, if ever, in order. Though the Representatives were formal in there procedures (yielding time, “Mr. Speaker,” etc.), there was an obvious hatred and disdain for the other party.

Absolutely no Republicans at all supported anything about the health care reform bill. At all. At times I wondered if it was because they truly thought the bill needed some work. But looking at the campaigning against the bill, the hateful propoganda against the bill, and the constant references to the bill as “ObamaCare,” I realized that it was only apposed because of it’s Islamo-socio-fascist tendancies.

If we’re to believe the gross exaggerations the most vocal Republicans were throwing out, you’d think that the Health Care Bill required that all American citizens were to become Muslims, be euthanized at 65, and have a manditory abortion twice a month, regardless of gender. You’d think that all of your money is going toward illegal immigrants getting cosmetic surgery, and that if you so much as thought about speaking ill of the bill, you were to be shot on sight.

That’s not to say that Democrats are perfect. Far from it: if they had been more vocal about what was actually in the bill, and would actually take a stand against Tea Party protesters who simply attended hearings to down down the Senators and Representatives, something more might have been done with the bill. Maybe there would have been a more productive discussion. Maybe there would have been changes made, and an actual compromise to the bill, rather than, and I’m quoting every Fox News “journalist” here, “shoving it down the American people’s throats.”

The whole debacle reminded me of my days as a child, playing on the playground, and watching the bullies and the geeks abuse and be abused.

Play this scenario out with me: Republicans are bullies, Democrats are geeks, the American people are the rest of the playground, and the health care bill is tag:

A friendly game of tag is being played, when one of the geeks realizes that the game is kind of becoming unfair, so he proposes a new game of tag. Maybe they were playing normal tag, and this geek would like to play freeze tag.

One of the bullies says, “You just want to change the game because you’re sick of losing all the time!”

The geek says, “Actually, I just don’t like how this game works, and I want to play a version that works for everyone.”

And the bully says, “The game is working fine as it is. We don’t need to change it.”

And other geeks start saying, “Actually, I’m not really having fun with it. And neither are other people on the playground.”

And the rest of the playground says, “Yeah, let’s change the game.”

And the bullies say, “You guys are just wussies. You’re just bringing up a change in the game because you want to avoid the fact that you’re losing!”

And the geeks say, “Well, everyone is losing right now. Let’s just play freeze tag.”

And the bullies say, “Look around you! Nobody else wants to play freeze tag!”

And the rest of the playground says, “Actually, I don’t mind changing the game.” But a few say, “Actually, yeah, I don’t want to play freeze tag.”

So the bullies start shouting. And the geeks can’t handle the shouting. They try to reason with the bullies, to get a compromise, maybe just tweak the rules, but they end up getting beat up after school.

Finally, the time comes when they want to change the game once and for all. The geeks gathered a lot of support for freeze tag, but the bullies know that it’ll never get changed, and they hope to play one last game of tag before the bell rings, signaling the end of recess.

They take a vote, the way all kids do when they want to be fair about changing the game. None of the bullies want to change the game. More geeks than bullies want to change it. The motion passes.

Then the bullies start calling the geeks names, evil names, and threaten to beat them up again unless they change their mind. But the game has been changed, and there’s nothing the bullies can do about it except whine and moan some more and pout because they didn’t get their way.

This is an important, 100-years-in-the-making decision that could mean better health care for everyone in America, and the Republicans don’t like it, only because it is Islamo-socio-fascist-ObamaCare.

Kids these days and their running the country. Whatever shall we do with them?