Everyone’s got an opinion about everything

Okay, not everyone. And not everything. But surprisingly many people about surprisingly many things. This will be the first of many posts about public opinion polling data, something in which I have increasing interest (even if little technical expertise).

Today’s interesting nugget comes via NPR, which reports on a recent little exercise done by Public Policy Polling. It seems that after a random tweet from a TCU professor, PPP polled voters and found that they had stunningly negative views of this person (whom they could not possibly have heard of)–3% favorable to 20% unfavorable. The money quote:

The big lesson for Farris, who is already thinking about how she’ll work this experiment into her next political science class, is in “pseudo-opinions.”

“People will offer an opinion when they don’t actually have one,” she said. “There is social pressure to answer, and give some type of opinion, whether it’s right or wrong.”

There is a recent boom in public opinion polls on education, and I am willing to bet many of the same trends come into play. Despite their general lack of knowledge about education issues, Americans want to give their opinions. In particular, for example, polls suggest that Americans pretty strongly support local control and teachers while also supporting weakened labor protections and testing. I’m sure some of this support is real. But I’ll bet a good chunk of it is just pseudo-opinions. Hopefully well-crafted polling and research can be used to help discern the difference.


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