I just got called by a polling company doing a brief survey on attitudes toward the political system in Loudoun County. In departure from my normal practice, I actually participated. Once again, my view that polls are generally idiotic was confirmed.

Even though I’m relatively new (a bit under two years) to the area, I’m probably more informed about these these issues than the average resident because of my interest in the news generally and politics in particular. Still, I was unqualified to answer most of the questions asked and even my instant reaction was that I had no opinion on most of them.

I don’t have the questions in front of me and don’t recall the specific wording, but such things as

  • Do you feel that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is managing problems in the area well? – The problem here is that I don’t really understand what the dilineation of authority and responsibility for various issues is. The only real thing that annoys me here is traffic and I don’t know who to blame for it or even know whether anyone should be blamed.
  • Do you feel that the policies of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on growth reflects those of the majority of the population? – Well, I haven’t conducted a survey of the population, so how do I know what the majority view is? Does the majority even have a coherent view?
  • Is Loudoun County growing too fast? – Well, it’s the same size as it always was, no? Oh, the population? Well, considering I just moved here myself I can’t justify a policy that would preclude others from moving here. So, too fast as opposed to what? Denying people the fundamental liberty to move as they please? Denying property owners the right to develop their property? It’s certainly growing faster than the infrastructure, mainly the roads, can handle.
  • There was some strange multiple choice question about what’s important to me about a store, which listed several things that were important to me (convenience, location, value and price) and several things that are total non-factors for me as a consumer (whether they employ only union labor, employee practices). I went with “value and price” since value is sufficiently vague to encompass other issues.
  • Should Loudoun County give tax breaks to companies that don’t provide a living wage to their employees? – Why should that be a function of tax policy? And what exactly is a living wage, anyway? Presumably, the employees aren’t actually dead or the problem would be self-solving.

    I suspect the rest of the questions were throwaways to mask those last two questions. I suspect, too, that my answers aren’t what they were hoping to get.

  • Is Loudoun County moving in the right direction? – What does that mean exactly? As opposed to what? As far as I know, it’s rotating along with the Earth at the proper rate of speed, which I wholeheartedly support.

I’m not even sure how they marked my answer on some of these questions, since my answers were mostly open ended and I don’t think they were supposed to be. Oh, well–back to hanging up on them from now on.

FILED UNDER: Political Theory,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    I’m glad you didn’t hang up this time, James. It’s interesting to hear what is being “surveyed.” Like you, it appears that the purpose of the survey were keyed on the final questions, which also betrayed the agenda of whoever commissioned it.

  2. Kate says:

    Yeah, been there-done that, too. A few months ago a phone polster called with questions obviously targeted to produce a favourable poll response to a government ad campaign.

    For example:

    “Do you believe that women can successfully operate a business in Saskatchewan?”

    I finally stopped the pollster, told him that I was a self employed woman, so my obvious answer would be yes, and that, by the way, my clientelle had shifted from 80% Saskatchewn based to 20% Saskatchewan based in the past 10 years, and that I was considering moving to the US because of the difficulties in trans-border business, created by our governments.

    He was typing furiously…

  3. Tom says:

    It sounds like a modified push poll. We have an opinion, so we will ask you the resident a leading question to bend your mind to our side of the issue. Then you will recieve a post card or flyer that will show how party X or candidate Y will fix the problem. Or it will show up in you local newspaper…

  4. Boyd says:

    I’d say the most likely candidates for the “force behind the poll” is the Piedmont Environmental Council or possibly Voters to Stop Sprawl, whose politicians got swept out of office last November.

  5. Jim says:

    My favorite answer when a telemarketer called when I was active duty was to try and recruit them into the Army. It usually began with me saying something like this “Boy am I glad you called…..” and proceded accordingly. It is amazing how quickly a telemarketer wants to get off the phone.