Poll Position

In this populist age, it is always assumed that scientific polls of the public should automatically gainsay the wonks and policy-makers. The poll is the modern media’s Torah—the numbers are scripture, and everything else is commentary. The implication of today’s “Minnesota Poll” at the Star Tribune seems to be that, since most Minnesotans do not favor same-sex unions, those who do support them should stop trying to push them through.

That is an easy assumption to make, particularly if you feel strongly about representative government’s accountability to the majority public that elected it. It is a special trick, and a great public disservice, to constantly poll people in order to record their discomfort with homosexuality. We wonder how many polls in the antebellum South (hell, the New South) would have showed a clear majority’s discomfort with the idea of free slaves.

On the other hand, isn’t it interesting that no one around the Twin Cities dares to mention the words “stadium” and “referendum” in the same breath anymore? That’s because every poll that has ever been conducted suggests that a powerful majority of Minnesotans rejects the idea of a public contribution to a new professional sports stadium.

It is normally called leadership, and it is how positive social change takes place over time. Despite appearances, it’s not just for billionaires.