Do You Lie To Pollsters About Race?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Shhh... don't tell Ken Rudin, but we've found another Political Junkie for the day. Ken's out this week, but as they say, the show must go on. So into the hot seat goes Ron Elving, NPR's Senior Washington Editor. The hot topic of the day, of course... Paris Hilton (and just mentioning that name might make this a most emailed blog post!). There are new polls, and ads, and attacks, and veeps to talk about. We'll also take some time to talk about polling in this election. Last week, we did a show about people's s1/4onscious biases ("the bigot in your brain"). The question for pollsters, then, is can white voters be truly honest in polls when it comes to race? Or is it likely that they might say, "of course I'll vote for a black candidate" but then not follow through. I have never been polled on politics, but if you have... Were you honest (really?)?



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I don't believe the polls should even used or published, I think they influence people decisions, when people need to be voting based off their wants and beliefs

Sent by Jay | 2:18 PM | 8-6-2008

Absolutely! I rarely if ever give any honest information. I find these constant polls annoying and invasive. On some where a computer is in charge I've even lied about my sex. And I don't think I'm the only one!

Sent by P. A. Manders | 2:29 PM | 8-6-2008

You folks seem to get high on race talk the way some people use drugs or sex. Enough already! Its getting boring. "Race" is a "stupid pill" that seems to make people into idiots. We have very serious issues in America. By the time we wake up from our "race" stupor" it may be too late.

Sent by desmond jolly | 2:34 PM | 8-6-2008

is there a correlation between the discrepancy of exit pools and the use of electronic voting machines?

Sent by Grace | 2:36 PM | 8-6-2008

I've never lied to a pollster because...I've never been polled. I'm wondering if this has anything to do with the fact that I haven't had a land line for over 8 years. Many people these days only have a mobile phone and I don't think pollsters call us. Could this have a measurable effect?

Sent by Tony Pereira | 2:36 PM | 8-6-2008

As a lifelong democrat who has witnessed a lot of harassment and name-calling throughout the caucuses and primaries, as well as currently in the blogosphere, this is my take on why people lie to pollsters with respect to Obama:
Many of us "liberals" who do NOT plan on voting for him on account of what we consider to be his lack of qualifications and his personality (which we do not like) are tired of being called racists. Sadly, there is no longer any room for civil discussion on the issues within the Democratic party. If you are critical of Obama, you are immediately silenced with the sledgehammer-like label "racist" which discredits anything you might say. After 9 months of dealing with this, it is much easier to say you will vote for Obama when you have no intention of doing so. Why ruin your reputation and suffer the slander?

Sent by Sofia | 2:37 PM | 8-6-2008

It is the teleological slant that the media introduces to discussions that illicites the untruthfulness by most respondants

Sent by Ike francis | 2:41 PM | 8-6-2008

I find no incentive to lie in any poll in which I am unable to be tied to the response I give. In the case of an individual being a registered democrats or republican and a response that they feel might be seen or tied to them may be the cause in obamas discreapancy in poll to vote. Exposing a bias or the potential of being seen as a racist may be enough incentive for not stating your true planned vote in the up coming election for a democrat voting. This is only if there is a chance of being exposed and pinpointed on your bias.

Sent by Connor | 2:42 PM | 8-6-2008

Are their differences in the way that liberals and conservatives answer these poll questions? Are liberals, for example, much more likely to claim that, when looking at another person, they don't take any notice whatsoever of that person's race or sex or weight or age and - even if they did notice such things - they would make absolutely no difference in the way that person is perceived, because liberals (at least publicly) purport to be completely discrimination-free?

Sent by David | 2:47 PM | 8-6-2008

I have never lied to a pollster. However I AM alarmed by the sudden emphasis on race. I fear that it is a right wing tactic to sow the seeds of doubt about Mr. Obama to try to undermine his support amongst the undecided white voters. I fear that corporate media owners and the Republicans
are behind this effort.

Sent by Jenny McCully | 2:53 PM | 8-6-2008

Do you think that "land-line" telephone polls are aged biased as younger people choose to use only cell phones?

Sent by Patricia Lenz | 2:55 PM | 8-6-2008

Do you have any idea about the umber of people who don't even go as far as answering their phone and telling you they won't participate in your poll? I for one, and I'm guessing I'm not too rare, check the caller id and don't pick up calls I'm not interested in. Based on the number of times calls come from the same number or group of numbers and the timing of the calls, my guess is that many of those calls are people polling.

Sent by Margot in Portland OR | 2:57 PM | 8-6-2008

Thank you for discussing race! I think that Obama would be ahead by 20 points if he were a white man. I am from S.W. Pennsylvania, where Hilary won the primary. My brother is a bartender in Pittsburgh and he says that he hears all of the time that his customers would never vote for a black man. I think these people would lie to a polster--in the North, they pride themselves on being better than the South--but there is a quiet, but institutionalized prejudice.

Sent by Sally O'Donnell | 3:00 PM | 8-6-2008

I have started lying. After attempting to answer numerous polls it came to my attention if they didn't like my answers the sesion would drag on and on. I realized the questions had an if / then quality which was attempting to get the answer they want.

Sent by Margaret Leafe | 4:48 PM | 8-6-2008

I am underwhelmed with both candidates as the race goes on, although I started out being in McCain's corner. I will probably be second-guessing myself right up until election day, but it won't be over whether the right candidate is too old or too dark. As far as lying to pollsters, why do people feel they have to lie to some disembodied voice on the other end of the line? For that matter, why do they feel they have to talk to that voice? If you don't want to be polled, just say no, just hang up. And if, in your heart of hearts, you really don't like Obama because of his funny name and the dark side of his parentage, why are you ashamed to say so?

Sent by K | 10:24 PM | 8-6-2008

I find it rare that a pollster is actually interested in my opinion. More often it is a hired hand looking to fill in some boxes with the answers to meaningless questions. I was a social science major and I'm inclined to answer polls, but I'm so often disillusioned with the canned script that I find that I'm fighting to give real opinion.

Sent by Mark Harmel | 12:55 AM | 8-7-2008

I agree with those who feel polls should be banned. People need to thoroughly educate themselves on the candidates and the issues they stand for, before voting. They must go beyond the hype, "celebritism" ("celebrity-ism"), and the most trivial of matters. The main reason why our country is so messed up is because people have placed trivialism above the most important matters in their lives. They seem to think that escaping into focusing on the dreams of the "celebrity world" will solve their problems. They must turn off the "media machine" that is feeding them the trivial garbage and start playing an active role in the process. No poll can do that.

Sent by Lori | 3:33 AM | 8-7-2008

My cell phone is my only telephone line, and I have been called for polling.

Sent by Amanda | 2:03 PM | 8-7-2008

I am so tired of this constant emphasis on race. It is being suggested that if you don't like Obama, it's because you are a racist. I'm not voting for him because of the way Hillary Clinton was treated by the Party, the media, and the Obama campaign. They've turned me into a single issue voter so I'm voting for Cynthia McKinney.

Sent by Susan | 4:15 PM | 8-7-2008

I have strong feelings about race - i.e. the way race is always pulled into the debate. When asked in any pool, I always check "Other" and then write-in "American".

As far as I know, racial science states that there 3 races: white/Caucasian; yellow/Oriental; and black/Negro. Maybe a 4th red/Indian (though Native Americans are also covered under yellow/Oriental). Absolute crap as far as I am concerned. It's strictly zoological/DNA profiling.

Ethnicity, nationality, religion, and culture are much better measures of a person's talents and values than the phoney category of race.

Obama is half negro and half caucasian - so it's hard to categorize hime in respect to 'race'.

Sent by kerthialfad | 11:37 AM | 8-10-2008

I use all kinds of phone-answering dodges to keep conversations short. That includes telling people what I think they are being paid to confirm.
It's that more than prejudice.

I guess that makes me a purposely bad poll respondent.

Sent by Arnold Harris, Mount Horeb WI | 2:16 PM | 9-19-2008