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Poll Dancing

Photo by JulNichols of iStock Photo

You probably heard the same news I did:  46% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

Hooey! Gallup interviewed 500 Americans.  

It's stated clearly on their Website:

Survey Methods
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 7-10, 2010, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
Each question reported here was asked of a half-sample of approximately 500 national adults.
How, why do both the media and Gallup's own publicity apparatus DARE to tell us that 46 percent of Americans think anything?  46 percent of the 500 people they talked to are in favor of legalizing marijuana. Yes, that is the highest percentage of people for pro-legalization ever. But the actual number of people is 230 Americans.  Yes, they choose those survey-ees from a random sample, and take into consideration age and other demographic information, but it is still just 230 people!
As the political season heats up, we will see news report after news report tell us what polls tell us. Look up the polls, look up the numbers, and learn the truth. Research is great. When done well, surveys can be helpful, informative, and accurate indicators of trends. Still, this should give no media and no organization the right to speak for an entire country after talking to a few hundred people.
To be honest, this should be reported as: "In Gallup's latest poll on whether or not Americans  favor legalizing marijuana, 46 percent of those polled said that they are in favor." They could be even more transparent and add: "500 people were surveyed."
I have yet to be one of those Americans that Gallup or anyone else "polls." I also have yet to be an American that decides what or how to think because of any poll taken anywhere. I think, and hope, that I'm alone in this. 

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