Insane Inaugural Day Poll Question

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Please stop asking me trick questions with an overloaded intent just because I live in the South. We are back home in the South since my husband’s retirement from the Air Force.  My husband and I lived for several years at both West Point, New York and The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Students at those military academies are the top 10% in the nation who in great percentages aced their SAT’s. We entertained those cadets on a pretty regular basis.

My husband was a cadet squadron commander at both academies and one of our jobs was to help them with their social skills. It was never in any way intended to direct them on their political views. The truth be told I was the one learning. They were so amazing. I absolutely love young people and their fresh ideas.  

Have you ever spoken to someone extremely intelligent? Like a person who doesn’t have to tell you they are smart cause you experience it on every level of communication with them. They have great eye contact, confident body language, and simple hand gestures. Their vocabulary is more than they will need in a lifetime. 

Professors who teach at these academies are not allowed to phrase questions that are grey, back ended, negative, or misleading. The military needs them to communicate effectively and topic specific. When you talk with a cadet, he will most likely do more listening than talking. He is taking his/her time examining your take on the issue. They are also forming every possible angle of the topic. Most importantly they are gathering facts.

A cadet’s response will almost always make you say—hey, I never thought of it that way before. They are taught that we are all team members working toward the same goals. They go through repeated exercises learning teamwork until it becomes second nature. They make excellent politicians. They bridge gaps and unite. They leave no one behind and their conversation reflects that. 

One reason they are able to be so articulate is found in the the way they file information. Importantly they will detect if you are asking a question or making a statement. We sometimes wrongly answer a statement which will cause the conversation to take a negative turn. You may offend the person making the statement. There are tactful was to explore a conversation like this without being offensive. MrD, my husband, is very direct. If I make a statement, he won’t usually respond as he thinks I’m expressing myself. If I want conversation, I have to ask him a direct question. He does business that way also and is very successful because he doesn’t get emotionally involved with your statements. 

Professors at the academies giving test and exams are not allowed to ask a question in a way that it is received negatively. Negatively means you are doomed if you do answer and doomed if you don’t. Here is an example for you. If I grow a Japanese maple in full sun will it thrive? Too many variables right? But you are only allowed to answer yes or no. What are you going to do? Wouldn’t you prefer the question to be; In what condition does a Bloodgood Japanese maple grow the best? or stated more efficiently; Please tell me the best growing conditions for a Bloodgood Japanese maple? 

Which of those questions is the easiest to answer? If you are trying to relay information correctly and that is your objective, you will ask in what conditions does the plant perform the best. But if you are trying to make it possible for the tree to grow in any location and that is your objective, you will ask if a Japanese Maple will thrive in full sun. Why would you ask such a broad question. You would ask it negatively because you really wanted it to grow in full sun. You weren’t worried about killing the tree. You didn’t want to be a Japanese maple tree expert. 

On Inaugural day, I received a poll question from an unknown. I don’t answer my phone unless I know the number but made the mistake that day. She was nice and had a pleasant voice. I told her I would answer her survey questions if she wasn’t trying to sell me anything. She informed me that I could only answer yes or no. Her first question right out of the gate was……Do you think president Obama is doing a good job. 

Mr President Obama had been in office about 5 minutes. I told her that I had not formed an opinion on that. She pressed me to state my feelings and they will rate my feelings and give the appropriate response on the form. I told her to go on to the next question. Here is where you could tell what kind of answers they were aiming to direct. She ask me if I was pleased with the job Pelosi was doing. Again, you could only answer yes or no. I’m not going to judge somone in such a broad sense. It’s like asking a gardener if their rows have always been straight. I might plow crooked every now and then if I’m thinking about MrD. 

It wouldn’t do any good to give this woman a speech and it wouldn’t do any good to be mad at her. I politely let her move on to the next victim. We need an across the board rule book on how poll and survey questions should be ask. No one should ask a question that comes in and out the back/same door. There should be one way in and one way out so it will allow you to express your thoughts and not direct your thoughts. It should flow and not be circular reasoning. You can go where ever you wish once you are out the door. Most pollsters come in the back door and go out the back door. Don’t you agree. 

Did you know that most arguments and misunderstandings occur because people never meet and never walk where the other person has been. If you enter and exit through the same door, you never meet or pass the other person. All you did was keep going in and out the same door. Some one is always using the front door and another is always using the back. It’s just preference.

You can still get to the kitchen from either direction. One day you should pass all the way through to the other side and see what is out there. I know at my house there are more flowers out back than in the front. The conditions are different. You need to try and see how the other side grows their stuff. You may be one of the plants all us gardeners love who can grow in any condition. They are rare aren’t they? 

Poll and survey reports are announced on all the different networks and you’ll get a typical response depending on who is asking the question. Pollsters will also navigate the maps of the region being polled and make it racially driven. We Southerners are so ready to let the whole race issue go to the compost bin and have good stuff added to it so it comes out nutritious for everyone. 

I hung up on one pollster recently who ask me if I would vote for a white or black president. I do loads of genealogy research and can most assuredly promise you that we are a great melting pot. I’ve  met people with my last name who were obviously a different skin tone. Thank goodness they were attractive;) 

Historically speaking, the South is stereotyped to vote in one direction. I don’t even have to tell you do I? In fact, we are stereotyped to vote based on being in the bible belt and racially because of the history that has been played out in the South. 

The South is still front porches, magnolia breezes, fried chicken, and melodic with our slow drawn out words. We aren’t the South of a generation ago. I am a conservative Republican just to the right of the middle. One of my best friends is registered just to the left of the middle Democrat. In the South, there isn’t a hair’s difference between the two. 

I can tell you that none of us wants to answer negatively driven questions or answer racially steered content. Get off that soap box and find the more current means of communication. The internet now allows you to read my weblog and my Charlotte Historical Examiner site. You can ask me directly any questions you have and I’ll give an honest opinion. We will be opposites on some issues and we’ll be connected on others. What we WILL NOT be is misguided. I am sick and tired of the media telling you what I think because they polled me with the intent of making their point.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Anna-
    What an enlightening post! Not only is it apparent that you are an intelligent and thoughtful person, but also one who understands the nature of communication.

    You shed some light on “dead ended” questions that I never thought about, especially as a ploy to get me to answer polls in a favorable or negative light.
    Congratulations on your new blog for the Examiner. I will be sure to visit and check out your compelling posts!

    Shirley
    Hey Ms Shirley! Thank you. I just came inside to upload a video of MrD working on the shed. It was a glorious day here in NC. I hope you had one in California. I think we are going to have an early Spring as I see some of my perennials peeping their head out of the ground. The are competing with the weeds that need to skeedaddle on out of there.

    My examiner experience is trying. I don’t seem to be able to upload quickly enough. It’s because I have to pay so much attention to details. By the time I’m done editing, I’m timed out and if you didn’t save info—you are doomed to start over. Long story. I emailed them and said—-hey boys—you do all the work and I’ll provide the stories. They sent me instructions on how to be efficient and productive. Do you suppose I can do that? I wonder what people will think when they see my grammatical errors and made up words? It is going to be interesting.

    Hugs to ya!

    Oh my word Shirley-I’m watching a special on the White House and President Taft weighed 330lbs. He had a special bathtub installed to accommodate his girth. There is a picture of the 4 men who installed the tub sitting in it. Fascinating. It’s on the History Channel.

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  2. Ha! This post made me smile. I bother those pollsters all the time when they call. They’ll ask a question that is poorly worded, and I’ll reply by telling them a better way to ask the question. There is always a long pause at the other end because they don’t know what to say…:-)

    I don’t have the nerve to hang up, though. I need to work on that…
    That is too funny Susan. Don’t you like the long pregnant pause. That use to make me uncomfortable until MrD did it to me so many times that now I know how to do it. I have actually learned that you don’t need to talk all the time. If you don’t want to discuss the issue then just stand there not saying a thing. And correcting their sentence is priceless. Maybe instead of calling this the era of telemarketers, we should call it the era of quality calling.

    I’m learning something here and marketers should take note. All of us would answer their poll questions if they were looking for how we truly feel. We get aggravated cause they ask ridiculous questions. Or they ask questions to get the least answer possible to make their advertising dollars go further.

    This morning, we’ve already had 4 unknown callers. One left a message that they could save us money on our 0 balance credit cards. I get a lot of calls for the previous owner of our number. I’m guessing they had credit issues. I can’t convince some creditors that I’m not hiding these people somewhere in my house. They were calling up to 20 times a day. Since we have cell phones for communications, we started unplugging the house phone if we need some privacy. I would say that 99% of my phone calls are advertising. All the people who need us call our cell phone.

    I like my phone and cable service being with the same service. Digital phone service will flash the caller’s ID on your tv screen. I don’t even skip a beat typing. Now if it flashed across my screen that a name brand company like Procter and Gamble were calling—then I would most likely pick up out of curiosity. I would want to know if I was going to get a good discount or trial something.

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  3. VP says:

    Hi Anna – great post.

    I hate polls because as you say, the option you want is never there. I’m increasingly of the opinion that the only way to get information of value is to have a real conversation.
    You summed that up nicely;) A conversation is really useful if it’s not all hot air. When I’m in a really especially conversing mood…….I’ll repeat the question back to the poller person. If they ask me what brand I prefer. I’ll say—–and tell me does it take out manure stains? Do you use manure in your garden? How often do you apply manure and does this increase your need for such and such brand?

    You know me well enough to know where this convesation was going and how long it could keep going.

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  4. Genevieve says:

    “But if you are trying to make it possible for the tree to grow in any location and that is your objective, you will ask if a Japanese Maple will thrive in full sun. Why would you ask such a broad question. You would ask it negatively because you really wanted it to grow in full sun.”

    Thanks for your take on plants, politics, and life, Anna. I get that kind of question so much as a garden coach that I sometimes don’t even know what to say.

    Nobody wants to hear that it would be better to move that sickly plant to an inconvenient portion of the garden, or that maybe they should give it to their friend with the opposite gardening conditions.

    You can tell a lot about a person by how they phrase a question, or accept an answer that doesn’t buy into their starting assumptions.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.
    Thank you for adding to the thoughts. I like how you said—buying in to their starting assumptions. My garden center days were full of unknowing folks who built a container out of shade and sun plants for the same pot. I would always and I do mean always try to respectfully admire their choices but phrase my concern as a complement. I would say—those are beautiful colors and go nicely together—can I suggest a few more varieties to fill your pots. They would say—oh….this is one pot. I would pause which makes most people continue to explain. This would present a chance to guide them to better selections. But it didn’t always work. I almost block their car from leaving the parking lot with their choices and I’d bake them a cake if they would listen to me.

    I’m not always so knowledgeable on every plant and not trying to be but i knew the plants we carried. Some plants you don’t have to know–you know?—you can just look at them and tell they were not meant for sun. I’ve killed probably more than are growing. After awhile, you get the hang of it or go broke. I hate to see people waste their hard earned dollars when I’ve already been down that road. Or….they tell me that they are going to use last year’s soil to save money. EEEEEEk!

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  5. Gary says:

    Hi Anna,

    My wife is a market researcher here in the UK so I know a little about market research. They would never phrase questions like that here, at least not if they wanted sensible results. As for the Black vs White question you would never get away with that in the UK, for one thing you wouldn’t know the ethnic background of the person you were talking too.
    The media here are selling President Obama as the best thing that has ever happened to the USA, and a huge deal is being made of his skin colour. In fact your election has probably had more coverage here than our own elections do, I did wonder if we were going to get a vote! To me the most important thing is what he does in the future. What he has done in the first few days has certainly won him friends on this side of the pond, but he is going to have a tough time over the next few months.
    All of this is so interesting and thank you for the reply. Bravo for asking those questions correctly. Everything is done so anonymously by phone that it would be hard to prove who is asking the questions. I have a pretty sophisticated caller ID but it only tells me certain things about a company. It would cost a fortune to pursue a complaint and probably futile.

    I understand the victory over skin tone being an issue and widely reported. It’s an especially big deal for those of us in the South who have had this ugly blight on our history. Any culture and Nation who wishes to rid themselves of a not so popular past understands why the US South is eager to let color issue get buried for good. We still have a long way to go. I wouldn’t say that equality exist. That could be another post with information to fill a book. But great strides are being made and this election allows all us Southerners to look each other in the eye more respectfully.

    Now– I can greet you and you can greet me and we have an equal chance of not judging each other. You no longer know or suspect the way a person voted based on race. For that reason alone, I feel more comfortable with our progress. Today a family from any US family can say to their kids……you can strive to be the President of the USA. You can be whoever you want to be. I smile at everyone but now a lot more people are smiling back. My heart leaps.

    I too expect great things from this man and I didn’t vote for him. We still have our differences. I am especially in disagreement about big government vs. local. You can read my reply to jodi to see more on those beliefs. My disagreements are issues and not race.

    Mr Obama has a very tough mission. He needs to cross party lines and make things happen. I can see that concern in his body language. He knows and is very concerned about appearing to convey the right attitude. He does not smile when he is in a difficult situation. Most of the time when people get nervous, they make a joke. Obama shows his concern in a most professional way. It tells me that even though I disagree with him that he is still sincere. He knows the weight on his shoulders to make a difference for every kid out there who wants to be somebody. I would not want that added pressure.

    I can not imagine how strong this Obama family will need to be as they are measured under a microscope. I am glad to hear that Mrs Obama’s mother is joining them to care for the girls. She will be so much more than a caregiver. She will be a rock and wealth of strength for the family. It must be lonely at the top. I hope the little girls lead rich lives and have the chance to see their daddy make history in the most positive way.

    It is nice to have all of the world hoping for your success. It is very appreciated.

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  6. nancybond says:

    Kudos to you, Anna, for simply hanging up. What a silly, stinted question anyway!
    So true! I know some awesome people who are government related. Sometimes they have to vote on something they may not necessarily agree with so that another item will get approved. So you have to study a candidate and their record to get the proper feel for a person. You can’t pick one thing or one minute as an evaluation. Such surveys would be timely and not very cost affective but they would be fair and true if the questions were presented in the right tone.

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  7. gailae says:

    Hi Anna,

    Already with the questions! We are polite people, but, sometimes I really want to be rude and hang up.
    Anna, I very much appreciate your honesty and genuineness…everytime we interact. gail
    Thank you and right back at cha! My father says I was vaccinated with a Victrola needle. Do you know what that means? A Victrola was a record player. The needle rode on the waves of the record and droned on and on until the record player ran out of energy or the needle broke. I use to talk when no one was listening and I’d talk when they were. I get that from my great aunt that I talk about all the time. She taught me that everything is interesting.

    One of the most attractive character traits you can have is the ability to let people know what you are about without making them feel a need to defend themselves. You state your beliefs but you don’t draw a line. You educate people on the process that allowed you to become who you are and not attack them on why their beliefs don’t work. I guess I can do that when I’m trying really hard but fail if I get my guitar tuned just right. I have a tendency to rant.

    If you rant too much you seem like a know it all. I believe I do that too often. I put myself out there to be examined and that will certainly make you critical of yourself. So I see there needs to be lots of improvement but just not sure at 50 if I want to put forth the desire to stop. I rather enjoy having a blog where you can say what you want. I’m glad you find it entertaining and understand my intent to be honest but not judgmental.

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  8. Phillip says:

    I would have to give that person a piece of my mind. LOL Why can’t I get those calls? At least you kept your cool.
    I gave them your number;) Seriously…..I could have unloaded on them. But the telemarketers are trying to make a living and not the source of the problem. It’s their employers.

    I’m easy on folks who have to do cold calling cause I use to have to do that for a cleaning business that MrD and I purchased just after our Air Force life. That was a huge mistake. We regret it and went broke being out of our element. MrD was owner and I was the secretary. I tried to drum up business by calling folks to let them know we would do a good job cleaning their carpet and washing their windows. Dread and humility are good words to describe cold calling. Folks would unload on you if you mispronounced their name. We counted our loss and pursued our climb back up the ladder. MrD is back in a job that suits his personality. I’m at home which suits mine! I’m happy to garden and blog all day about gardening.

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  9. jodi says:

    You are such an intelligent woman, Anna. I don’t answer polls (I don’t answer the phone unless I can see who it is) and I try not to make assumptions about people, which is of course easier said than done. I loved your thoughtful comment on my blog last night and really admire your integrity.
    I too get very exasperated with how the mainstream media likes to sculpt supposed slants on subjects, and it never fails to amaze me that so many base their ‘information’ on polls. They actually seem to think that talking to 1000 random people is going to give them anything of substance, but I can’t see that. Especially, as you observe, when their questions are slanted or give only a yes/no answer.
    Now, by the same token, not everyone is that bright, and not everyone is that cynical. Some are led like sheep by opinion polls that tell them how they ought to think. I feel very strongly that the media here in Canada, led by the bully who is our current prime minister, destroyed the career of the former leader of the opposition with their constant fixating on his language skills (he’s French), among other things.
    What I hope most of all is that your new President will continue to comport himself with dignity, avoid ad hominem attacks on others, and that such dignaty and integrity will start to show up in more and more people–and not just politicians. Yes, I can be both cynical and optimistic. 🙂
    Thank you and I enjoyed your blog post also. It is so sad that our politicians can’t focus on issues. They have to dodge false accusations in many cases. Well meaning voters will jump on a band wagon without doing enough research and checking a candidate’s voter record. What issues did they support and how does that jive with your thought process?

    I really don’t get upset when someone disagrees with me. I am more impressed that they can communicate what they are passionate about. I have learned that one brand does not fit all. I really don’t care how we arrive at a solution if it is morally and ethically correct. People spend a great deal of energy proving one path is more correct than another when they could have channeled that energy toward the fix. Make an educated decision and get behind the plan. We can’t all be leaders.

    I don’t want to forget the past or it gets repeated. But things do seem to move in cycles. One generation has big Washington government and another steers it towards local government and small Washington. I prefer small Washington and more local. Our nation is so big that what California needs isn’t the same as what North Carolina needs. Even in NC and our 100 counties we differ depending on topography and economic stability. I’ve seen our tobacco farmers go bankrupt and almost send our state in to total depression but locally we are retraining. We are attracting industry and research with tax incentives. Lots of people have relocated or learned to grow a different crop. Now there is a demand for tobacco and it could make a comeback. New research for the use of nicotine is getting a great deal of attention.

    NC learned to grow grapes once again and we’re gaining ground in that arena. We use to be the no. 1 wine and grape producer before the prohibition. We have reinvented ourselves many times over and you know what—–our generational lines show the money is still in the same families. It’s the local level decisions and small businesses that make or break the country. Ok–that’s my opinion of course but maybe I think like this because I live where those innovative ways of thinking have gotten us out of a depressed state. More and more of that local authority is being taken away.

    jodi—how many people educate themselves to equip their arguments with facts? Voters take the easy approach and base their choices on the popularity of a candidate with the media. Tomatoe tomato and potato and potatoe is a quote made famous when a candidate spelled one of the words incorrectly. No one has a clue what he did but they remember that he could not spell one word. We have too much access to the facts to be ignorant these days. We had great numbers of people come out and vote this year.

    They voted because they thought their vote would once and for all be important and make a difference. To me..their vote has always been important. I believe that there is a huge gap between those who are informed and those who aren’t. People get lax when there is plenty. People get radical and involved when fear is a factor. They fear for their jobs—their economy–their taxes—their businesses—their kids—so many things that are no different this year than any year. It’s the cycle we are in. Our WW2 generation is our largest voting population because they are driven by a fear and appreciation for what their vote means. They paid a heavy price as our kids are doing today. Those in college right now got out and voted due to their fear and their future.

    The current elections in the USA got so much attention because our economy is affecting their comfort. They got involved because they may not agree with how we reacted to 911. 4 years from now when elections roll around again and things are perhaps going great then the voters will stay home and the world won’t care. People react to the temperature of the room.

    This is a nice and lively conversation. Too bad you don’t live close to my front porch. I would make a good apple pie and some tea. We would have a grand time hashing this stuff back and forth. You reckon anyone would listen? I went to see Benjamin Button tonight. It was awesome and I felt moved to tears for so many reasons. Have you seen it? It’s got to be one of the most well written movies I’ve ever seen. Just the right amount of heavy and light to keep you centered and interested.

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