So, by a curious coincidence, my address has been tagged by a long-time and established polling organization, to receive increasingly plaintive pleas for any adult in the household to participate in whatever line of questioning on important matters which they have been asked to research. I guess that someone doing basic research has tagged my residence as representative of a demographic, based on value of home, area of address, ethnic background, income, education, profession … or whatever judgment is used to select respondents for national surveys. One of those mailers even included a $5 bill as token of earnest intent. I pocketed the bill – hey, five bucks that I didn’t have before – and threw the rest of it in the recycle bin.
Time was when I would have been Nancy Nice Person and signed on to give my opinion – hey, I signed up to review movies and books, yea these many years ago, mostly for the freebies which that exercise offered, and once again to give judgment on various surveys that my local grocery store chain offers (in hope of scoring one of those drawings for gift cards) but all that is merely a matter of consumer aesthetics and tastes. This polling enterprise is on a whole ‘nother level. It may touch on the political, and that – like the electrified rail in subway routes – is a thing that I will not venture in these present times. Although I post here, on matters social and political, it is not with my given legal name and residential address firmly attached to said opinions and comment.
A digression – once upon a military time, back in the day when I was stationed at an overseas base in the mid-1980s, a survey was put about to a randomly selected number of troops. If I recall correctly, it was to deal with domestic abuse; some bulging brains associated with research into this maddening problem wished to know the occurrence of and degree associated with military service. Very good and commendable of inquiring minds with a wish to know, and we all were strictly enjoined that if we were tagged to participate in the survey, we should answer honestly, or else. The ‘Or else’ was implied, as this was a matter of military orders. We were assured of confidentiality … but as it came out, many of those tagged to participate just flat-out did not believe such assurances. Troops complained to the base IG – that if they honestly and truthfully answered certain questions on the survey, they could be subject to charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As much as the office administering the survey bleated about strict confidentiality … they were not believed. I can’t recall at this late date, how it eventually worked out, as I mercifully wasn’t one of those tagged for that survey. But the bottom line was – cynics that we all were, and the military generates cynics in a richly-fertilized field – no one believed claims of confidentiality for a hot second.
And such it is with this organization: I do not believe in or trust any assurances of confidentiality. Not if my legal name and residential address can be associated with my honest responses in any way or form. It’s come to this; a suspicion that any employee of this enterprise, processing responses, might be moved to moved to … do something. Break confidentiality, turn over a list of addresses and names to … whomever, in order to punish an opinion of which they disapprove. I do not trust – and that is rather a sad thing. Polling used to be a rather valuable thing for all sorts of constituencies and customers wanting to know the answers to all kinds of questions, and now they seem to be swimming in a sea of distrust.
The other thing is that I would rather keep the powers that be guessing. I’d sooner keep them in unbearable suspense about what the rest of us are thinking, as they are likely shaping such plans to maintain dominion over us ordinary citizens and using polling data to aid that effort
Comment as you wish. We’re all of us on a list somewhere, I think.