December 15th, 2011
06:02 PM ET

Letters to the President #1060: 'No more poll vaulting for me'

Reporter's Note: I write to President every day. Pollsters say 3 out of 4 Americans approve! Well, not really, but who knows

Dear Mr. President,

I may be giving up on polls for a while. I realize with the big presidential election ripping up on us this could be a rash move. After all, how could anyone possibly distinguish a good candidate from a bad one without a scorecard from the world of polldom? (If you notice something dripping from this page, it’s sarcasm. And don’t worry, it don’t stain, although it can burn.)

Oddly enough, what has put me off of the pollsters is a new poll about, not politics, but rather sports. Sports Illustrated asked some 230 NFL players who they thought were the worst sports commentators. Now, I’m assuming this poll was biased by inordinate participation from players whose teams have no shot at the playoffs because, after all, wouldn’t the best players on the best teams be a tad too busy right now for such nonsense?

Furthermore, if the sample was indeed tilted by the worst teams, it would also have an overly heavy dose of folks involved who have gripes with sports commentators anyway. It’s hard enough losing all season without also having some sanctimonious prig in an announcer’s booth telling the world that you suck…Colts.

Beyond that, the results simply make no sense. I watch a fair amount of sports and as best I can make out, the survey ended up putting almost every sports announcer I can readily think of on the “bad” list. Frankly, I’d be interested in knowing who these players think is good, because I’m wondering if it would be anyone I’ve ever heard of.

I don’t mean to wreck on S.I. Truth be told, this is just a good reminder about the nature of polls themselves. When they are done well by credible pollsters, they can be useful, but only to a point. They are a general measure, not an exact prediction. And when they are done badly, they can create dreadfully misleading impressions.

Speaking of sports, I enjoyed a very nice 5 mile run this morning. Still shaking my legs out after the ultra so not ready for any serious mileage, but it was fun. If you want to join me for a trot this weekend, give a shout. Might be a nice break from the madness of Congress and Christmas preps.


Post by:
Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.