I have just been listening to Gordon MacDonald of CARE (and a trustee of Solas) being interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland on the Assisted Suicide Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament. The interviewers key point seemed to be that an opinion poll which put support for assisted suicide at 79% of the Scottish public, was key evidence for the parliament making a decision. Gordon quite rightly pointed out that when the public were informed about the decision being made then the figures changed dramatically. The interviewer then suggested somewhat incredulously that this was Gordon despising the publics ability and judgement. To which my answer is simply that it is not the inability of the public to think that bothers me, but the inability of some journalists which really worries me. If the journalist had asked himself the simple question – who commissioned this poll then he would have found out that it was the supporters of euthanasia. But that is not how the BBC currently works – rational thought is replaced by emotion, and reasoned evidence by opinion polls.
This wonderful sketch from Yes Minister illustrates the point perfectly!
When Same Sex Marriage was introduced, opinion polls were initially against. They changed. Not because of the rational arguments and the considered thought, but rather because of the emotive stories, the political blackmailing (if you are ‘progressive’ and kind you will support this – if not you are some kind of twisted homophobe) and the twisted questions. If you asked people “Do you think marriage should remain between a man and a woman?”, the majority said yes. Likewise if you asked ‘Are you for same sex marriage?”. But once the question was changed to “Do you support equal marriage?” then of course the numbers shifted. Perhaps our incredulous BBC journalist would say ‘Do you really think the public are that dumb?” – to which the only answer can be – given that our politicians and journalists are that dumb, why should we expect the public to be any better?! Government by opinion poll in a culture dominated by an acquiescent media and dumbed down politics, is the dream of all dictators. Sadly we seem to be heading that direction….I hope that Scotland’s MSP’s will have the intelligence to see what is happening, and the guts to stand against the tide….
Footnote: Just to note that a couple of atheists on my twitter feed are trying to argue that governments do and should govern by opinion polls (it seems the ignorance of how British democracy works is deeper than I thought! – My quote of the year so far… “i guess you miss the point that the gov is elected by opinion poll. that’s how democracy works.” Unbelievable!