I’m fascinated by polls.
As a kid, I was always anxious for the voting polls to come in every week for college basketball or football to see not only where my favorite teams were rated, but also to see that little number in parentheses next to some of the teams that showed how many first-place votes they might have received. I would chuckle about how the top team in the country would have maybe 50 first-place votes, the second team would have about 15 and the seventh- or eighth-ranked team would always have a solitary first-place vote.
Who is the guy who voted for that team?
I would imagine that he was some brilliant analyst of sports who could see what others could not. He was the only one who knew who the best team in the country really was, and all the rest of the voters were just fools, joining the bandwagon of whatever team happened to be the flavor of the week, and not really looking at who the best team really was.
Of course, that team would then subsequently get blown out in their next game, and I would just write that one voter off as a crackpot who liked to be different. Oh, come on. We all know those people who always like to be contrary and just say whatever they feel will get the most attention and irritate the most people. It’s like Bob Bertram talking about his old black-and-white movies or life before the wheel ...
But I digress.
I came across a story the other day on Yahoo! News that discussed a new poll from Public Policy Polling, which recently conducted a survey on 20 “widespread and/or infamous” conspiracy theories.
This was right up my alley, I figured. Polls, conspiracy theories, crackpots having a forum — it was like Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Thanksgiving, all rolled up in one food-fueled, alcohol-laced, gift-giving extravaganza.
According to the poll, 14 percent of people believe in Bigfoot, or roughly half as many people as believe that Lady Ga Ga exists (the latter is my own number, but it helped me complete the joke, so back off). Seven percent of those polled believe the moon landing was faked, 6 percent think that Osama bin Laden is still alive and 13 percent think that President Barrack Obama is the Antichrist — compared to 17 percent who believe that Justin Bieber actually is (again, another made-up figure by me, but my pop-culture references are flying today).
Of course, many of the conspiracy theories attached to the poll focused on what our government or big business is or isn’t doing to us, the people. For instance, 5 percent of those polled believe that exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for “sinister” reasons, and 15 percent of voters believe that the medical and pharmaceutical industries are inventing new diseases to make money. Nine percent think that the government adds flouride to our water supply for those aforementioned “sinister” reasons, and 4 percent of those polled believe that shape-shifting lizard people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power (the last one was not made up by me, but I am intrigued, and will now look at Ross Perot in a totally different light).
There are more than just governmental or corporate conspiracy theories involved in this poll. For instance, 37 percent of American voters believe that global warming is a hoax (though I’m not entirely sure what the hoax was created for — the powerful wind lobby?). Nearly a third of the voters believe that aliens exist, and 21 percent believe that a UFO crashed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947, and that the government covered it up. Apparently they did not do a very good job covering it up since that premise has been in approximately 1,400 movies and television shows over the years.
Five percent of those polled in this survey believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966 and was replaced in the Beatles, but nobody actually questioned the existence of Ringo Starr, which puzzled me even more.
Polls can tell us quite a bit about the mentality of our citizenry, and what we need to focus our attention on going forward. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. And sometimes ...