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Volume 14, Number 7
April 6 - 19, 2008

opinion
Also in this section:
Editorial, Panamanian voters should check and update their registrations this month
Bernal, The Intoxication of the Polls
Leis, Look in the eye of the needle
Baker, Meet the new welfare king
Holdeman & Birns, NAFTA becomes an issue in Democratic primaries
Jacinto, NAFTA and Mexico's farmers and president
Pilgrim, Slash and burn in US presidential race
Human Rights Watch, Olympic Committee operating in a moral void
Reporters Without Borders, China's plan to manage Olympics journalists
Gutman, History lessons to be forgotten
Sirias, Winning an award for a book that had no publisher
Letters to the editor


The Intoxication of Polls
by Miguel Antonio Bernal

Alain Garrigou, professor of political science at the University of Paris at Nanterre, author of various works like Politics and History (1007), The Elites Against the Republic (2001) and A Social History of Universal Suffrage, 1848-2000 (2002) has finally published his most recent production, L’ivresse des sondages (The Intoxication of Polls) in Chile, which makes the work from which this column derives its name available in Spanish.

The translation by Hernán Soto for Editorial LOM allows Spanish-language readers, particularly Latin Americans, to in addition to knowing this extraordinary work of research and analysis, to have a book that questions the most sophisticated, mistaken and manipulative thing in politics: the polls.

In France, as in the United States of America and many other countries, the polls have become a species of truth, although they are frequently wrong. Nowhere do they do so many polls, and nowhere is their role so important, it is said, as in France. Thus comes the work by my good friend and colleague in the university classrooms, which is most useful for all of those in Panama who are interested in verifying the value and hierarchy that some give to opinion polls when it comes to electoral politics. Every page teaches us to have great apprehension when confronted by these actors.

Given that for the pollsters, every criticism of the polls is by its very nature incompetent, the work generated an animated argument in France, which is far from over. Garrigou's work used as its context the 2006 - 2007 electoral contest for the current six-year French presidency. Through the end of his study, Nicolas Sarkozy --- the author says --- "had for years been applying a strategy for the conquest of his party by way of a systematic practice of advertisements directed at public opinion by way of the press and the polls. His bet was so successful that it now continues from power, as if there were not big difference between winning votes and governing."

The Intoxication of Polls, unmasks, didactically, scientifically and with documentation the relatively subtle connections among the famous polling firms and the groups in power. "Due to the press, money and politics, the polls have become an ubiquitous social force. It's very difficult to escape their obsessive presence," Garrigou comments. The polls, Garrigou writes, are a parody of science. They're arrogant. They fabricate an opinion that didn't exist beforehand. As a consequence, politics are molded by an instrument that ever more sinks to storytelling. I hope that we learn and that we become sick --- of the polls.


















Also in this section:

Editorial, Panamanian voters should check and update their registrations this month
Bernal, The Intoxication of the Polls
Leis, Look in the eye of the needle
Baker, Meet the new welfare king
Holdeman & Birns, NAFTA becomes an issue in Democratic primaries
Jacinto, NAFTA and Mexico's farmers and president
Pilgrim, Slash and burn in US presidential race
Human Rights Watch, Olympic Committee operating in a moral void
Reporters Without Borders, China's plan to manage Olympics journalists
Gutman, History lessons to be forgotten
Sirias, Winning an award for a book that had no publisher
Letters to the editor

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