Changing lanes, yoga and the science of polling

Herbert Hyman died last Monday. Hyman’s name recognition is flat; his influence in contemporary life was not.

Herbert Hyman died last Monday. Hyman’s name recognition is flat; his influence in contemporary life was not.

Professor Hyman is often credited with legitimizing the science of polling.

Today politics and consumer economics is often based on polling of people’s attitudes and preferences.

As this science improves, more of us depend on what polls tell us about the world around us.

What is rather frightening is that pollsters do not have to ask you directly to know what you are thinking.

According to the science of polling, as long as everyone has an “equal chance” of being included in the survey, a “good random sample” is highly accurate.

So even if you have never been contacted, random sampling will provide an accurate snapshot of who you are likely vote for, who will win an election, what products you will purchase and which ones you will avoid.

Here is what polling data tells us about our common attitudes on God and evolution.

Forty per cent of us believe human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God was directly involved in that process.

Nine per cent believe we have developed over millions years and God had no part in it.

Forty-seven per cent believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

Four per cent have no opinion. Imagine that.

Sixty-seven per cent of us believe it is possible to believe in God and evolution at the same time. Twenty-nine per cent do not. Four per cent are unsure.

If you are interested in adding genetically modified food to your diet check this out.

If you saw a product that was genetically modified in the supermarket; six per cent of us would be more inclined to buy it, 55 per cent less inclined; 37 per cent believe it would make no difference, and two per cent are unsure.

What about space travel?

Thirty-one per cent of us have no trouble with government spending billions sending astronauts to the moon.

Sixty-seven per cent are highly opposed.

Forty-three per cent would travel into deep space if given the opportunity. Fifty-five per cent would stay on the ground. Two per cent are not sure whether the good life is down here or up there.

How accurate are these numbers? I don’t know. But I do know Hyman’s work was intended to take the bias out of public opinion.

While major polling centres, like Angus Reid and Gallup are probably reliable, most of us are still doing our own polling to help define our world — and not very scientifically, I fear.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper says most Canadians want a strong peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, or that most Canadians support a reduction in GST, he is engaged in wishful thinking.

Just as wishful and probable just as unscientific are statements by Premier Dennis Fentie (all Yukoners want a strong economy and most would favour a rail system to ensure it) or Todd Hardy (all of us demand transparency).

When polls support our ideas, we endorse them. When they run counter to our beliefs, we quickly dismiss them.

Given this, here is my own unscientific, biased and probably inaccurate polling data.

Almost daily, I run, walk or cycle the Alaska Highway from my home to the top of Bear Creek Summit. Over the last 10 years I have come to the following conclusions:

The longer and more modern the luxury coach, the less likely the driver will move over and give me ample room.

If a woman is driving, I’m more likely to be crowded off the road.

If, on the other hand, the vehicle is a small Toyota or VW camper, they’re likely to move into the other lane to give me as much room as possible.

If the vehicle is sporting a bike rack or carrying a canoe or kayak I can guarantee you I will have all the room I need.

Truckers are more difficult.

If they are hauling an enclosed trailer, I get little or no consideration. If it’s a loaded flatbed, I can drop my shoulders a bit.

If I am facing a rented camper I often drop to one knee in prayer.

If it’s a pickup or SUV sporting an American flag, I drop down on both knees.

A Hummer, I quickly take the yoga position in which I can readily kiss my ass goodbye.

Gregory Heming is a writer living in Haines Junction.

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