In 1996, Harry Shearer and I founded the Partnership for a Poll-Free America, a campaign urging people to hang up on the pollsters who are polluting our political environment by dominating media coverage, influencing election outcomes, and turning our political leaders into slavish followers.
We were able to get a few thousand people to take our Say No to Pollsters pledge but, at the time, the Huffington Post wasn't even a glimmer in my eye, and "going viral" was still something that required a visit to the doctor.
In the dozen years since then, the problems caused by polling have only gotten worse.
Today's political landscape is littered with media mavens who insist on treating polling results as if Moses just brought them down from the mountaintop. And reporters have become addicted to the ease of reporting the latest horse-race results as if they were actual news.
Look at the five days between Iowa and New Hampshire, when the political conversation (including here on HuffPost) was dominated by polls that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. USA Today had Obama up by 13 points just two days before he lost by three. A sixteen-point swing -- in 48 hours -- is, I trust, beyond the "margin or error." And please don't tell me it was the result of Hillary getting misty.
But even if they had been right, do we want our political debate dominated not by issues but by who is up and who is down, who is hot and who is not?
No wonder politicians have become pathological people pleasers, addicted to the short-term buzz of a bump in the polls, who can't even get dressed in the morning without consulting the latest numbers.
But we can't expect these polling junkies -- both in the media and those running for office -- to kick the habit on their own. We have to stage an intervention. And it's as easy as hanging up your phone. Response rates are already abysmally low -- often dropping below 25%. So if enough of us refuse to answer, the polling data will become so unrepresentative and unreliable even the media would have to admit it was useless.
So I'm asking you to sign our Say No to Pollsters petition.
It's fast, it's easy, and it can be very effective. In fact, if everyone who signs the petition also gets everyone they know in states with upcoming primaries to sign the petition too, it can have an immediate impact on the way the 2008 race is reported on and run.
By just saying "No" to pollsters any time they call, we can force our leaders -- and the reporters who cover them -- to start thinking for themselves again. Starting here. Starting now.
So sign the petition and Say "No" to Pollsters! And send it to everyone you know in Nevada, Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida. Remember: Friends Don't Let Friends Talk to Pollsters!
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