[lit-ideas] Re: interaction of polls and public opinion

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2006 08:50:07 -0800

Julie wrote: "I suspect a good deal of that has nothing to do with ideology,
but that there were a lot of teenage boys who signed up having no clue they
would have to go overseas and actually be shot or blown up, and a lot of
young women who don't want their now young men to go overseas and be shot or


I have been off in the irrelevant world of Nathaniel Hawthorne rather than
following these discussions, but the above statement jumped out at me as I
was deleting messages.  I'm ashamed to engage in a tangent having railed
against them for so long, nevertheless it occurs to me that here is an ideal
place for the new congress to have an investigation.  It should investigate
our schools and their teachers.  Surely it is a scandal to graduate high
school students who can join an organization that fights our wars and as
Julie says "not have a clue" that they shall be expected to help should our
nation go to war.  


Note also, you democratic investigators, the Republican lie that our
soldiers are smarter than ever.  This was being advanced to oppose John
Kerry's recent comment to the contrary.  Since John Kerry was obviously
right, this heinous Republican bit of misinformation should surely be
investigated.  Surely if "a lot of teenage boys" haven't a clue that in
joining the Army they might be expected to fight, these clueless boys have
subnormal intelligence and must be lowering the average IQ of our military.
Shoot, when I joined the Marines at age 17 we all knew we might be expected
to fight, and back in those days all you needed was an IQ of 80 to get in.


Lawrence, returning to the intelligent even if irrelevant world of Hawthorne







From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of JimKandJulieB@xxxxxxx
Sent: Saturday, November 11, 2006 2:37 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: interaction of polls and public opinion


Sorry to be dense, but I never did well in math.  Does this mean that you're
saying that what is traditionally taught about probabilities and stats isn't
relevant to politics?  (Btw, here in Missouri there was the largest turn-out
of "young voters" (I'm thinking that must refer to something like 18 -21 or
so; not sure of the #'s) in 40 years.


I suspect a good deal of that has nothing to do with ideology, but that
there were a lot of teenage boys who signed up having no clue they would
have to go overseas and actually be shot or blown up, and a lot of young
women who don't want their now young men to go overseas and be shot or


How do you create a graph which cross-references voting by age, ethnicity,
efficiency of voting machines, weather, straight ballot or not, wording
andplacement of issues, location, etc?  Maybe, John, what you're saying is
there are simply too many variables....


On the other hand -- I always think of the pendulum swing (and I have no
idea how this would relate to what have said, John, but I'd love to know); a
theory of sorts, even though only anecdotal in large measurements, though
there doubtlessly studies out there I've never looked up or run across, that
each generation rebels against the generation before it.  (There's a
dangling participle there somewhere.)   Do you remember (or ever see?) a TV
sitcom called "All in the Family"?  Michael J. Fox played a high school or
young college guy whose parents were the prototypical flower children
complete w/ being jailed for protesting, etc.  Fox was the ultimate
Commercialist prodigy -- following Wall St., valuing money above all...rabid
Conversatism (how's that for irony?).  Parents were visceral dem's.   I
believe (stand me corrected if I'm wrong, someone), that this show aired
during the Reagan administration.   One would suppose that the baby boomers'
generation's children may perhaps be proud hard-line conservatives. 


Maybe I should start feeding my girls Rep propaganda...


Julie Krueger
========Original Message========


[lit-ideas] Re: interaction of polls and public opinion


10/24/2006 9:07:50 P.M. Central Standard Time





Sent on:    

On 10/25/06, Eric Yost <eyost1132@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> If people watch televised poll results that indicate 30
> percent of the public believes X, will that cause an upward
> shift in the percentage who believe X? Is there a critical
> polling mass (50 percent? 60 percent?) when a polled opinion
> about X multiplies itself? And how does the frequency of
> publicizing polls alter future polled opinion?
> I bet John McCreery knows something about this.

There may be such research. If so, I'm unfamiliar with it. A couple of
things I have read recently do suggest, however, that the "critical
mass" metaphor may not be appropriate in discussing social phenomena.

One critical flaw in the metaphor may be the assumption that there is
only one tipping point, as there is when a nuclear exposion occurs.
Anthropologist/marketing guru Grant McCracken suggests in his new book
_Flocks and Flows_ that cultural phenomena must typically survive five
to six tipping points en route from the chaos of innovation to
becoming conventional wisdom. At each of those tipping points the meme
in question must break through and appeal to a wider audience than the
narrower group to which it first appealed.

A similar point is made in one of the books on network analysis that I
am currently reading as background for my current research project (if
anyone is interested I will try to locate the particular book in
question; at the moment it isn't to hand). The topic is the
application of network analysis to explanation of crowd behavior. The
specific question is why some bar fights fizzle out while others
result in full-scale riots. Here, again, a critical issue appears to
be the way in which the crowd is structured.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that people can be ranked in order
of propensity to become involved in a bar fight, so that 1s tend to
start fights, 2s tend to join in immediately, 3s stay out until a
certain proportion of the crowd is already fighting, 4s stay out
longer, etc. A single 1 can start a riot if there are enough 2s who
will leap in to create a fight big enough for the 3s and then the 4s
to get involved as well. But in a crowd in which there aren't enough
2s the fight fizzles out.

The thrust of both of these analyses is that there isn't a single
"critical mass" threshold. There is, instead, a range of thresholds,
each a function of the structure of the population in question and
(the other side of that coin) the propensities of the individuals who
comprise it.



John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN

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