Polls, numbers and stats . . .

Numbers don't lie, but they tell a lot of half-truths and the Internet has opened up a whole new forum for mathematical misleading.

Now, I'm not a professional pollsters or a statistician, but I don't have to be to know that polls are not reliable. Yet they are used for everything from public attitudes to predicting the outcome of political contests.

We have been raised to think that numbers represent absolute fact -- that in a math class there is one and only one correct answer -- but less emphasis is put on the fact that in the real world numbers don't convey any information without other frames of reference. We're hard wired to believe that the numbers we see and hear in everyday life were measured with infinite precision. They're not and this has left us vulnerable to the ways in which statistics can deceive us. By poorly, incorrectly or deceptively structuring the questions that produce poll numbers, the audience can be manipulated into thinking opinions are fact.

Politicians and pundits often point to polls showing that “the public agrees with them.” It matters little whether the speaker or writer is a socialist, a liberal, an independent or a conservative. They can always find a poll that supports their viewpoint and then use that poll to manipulate our thinking in order to produce a desired result or to support an agenda.

• Numbers don't have to be manufactured to be misleading. Numbers will only be as precise as the method of measurement used.

• The problem with polls and why the polls are unreliable is that the user never knows all the factors behind those numbers.

• The samples are too small and the margins of error are too big. I find it difficult to believe that 1,000 people are a reliable indicator of what hundreds of millions of people actually think.

• We don't know anything about those polled. Their makeup and worldview are rarely known beyond political party. They are faceless.

• People like to look good. They may answer questions from pollsters in ways that make them look like a good person.

• Those polled may be intimidated by the question and may lie or otherwise mislead.

• Those polled may be confused by the wording of the question and respond in a way that doesn't represent their actual feelings or opinion.

• Poll results are dependent on how a question is worded and are often constructed to elicit a predictable response. Push poll are opinion polls in which the true objective is to sway people using loaded or manipulative questions.

Does this mean the poll results produced on this site are better that what we see or hear in the media?

I have no idea!

But I know this. If you have your own data, know exactly how the question is worded and know the characteristics and sample of those polled, you will have the information you need to draw your own conclusions.

That's all I'm trying to do here -- collect enough data on the big issues facing 21st Century America to produce the information to help us understand what Americans believe about the burning issues of the day.

To do this I need your help. Participate. Respond to the polls. Email and text a link to your friends and associates. Mention this site on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.

Here's the link -- http://www.ParkerShannon.net -- plese copy and share.

I need lots of participants -- lots of data -- and so do you.