Press: Do We Ask Too Much of Polls?

Surveys are a favorite media tool, but do the results measure up?

In these skeptical times, polls may be the one remaining authority that the press customarily accepts without question. The subject may be the Panama invasion (the public supported it), the arrest of Mayor Marion Barry (Washingtonians thought he should resign), or Jane Pauley's treatment by NBC (PEOPLE readers who answered a call-in survey found it unfair), but editors rarely meet a poll they don't like. Polls have even been published reporting the number of California drivers with paraphernalia hanging from their rearview mirrors (8%), and Iowans with ornaments on their lawns (24%).

The seemingly insatiable appetite for polls arises because they...

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