Now that the election is over, I believe it is time to confront a simple yet largely overlooked problem confronting our current political process – spin. After watching the debates – and sneaking a peek at my roommate’s television that has political shows on 24/7 – it seems to me that we have got to get rid of it.

All this spinning during the campaigns, not just during the debates, is seriously contaminating the general voter consciousness. It is probably realistic to assume that the majority of voters in this election decided their opinions on the candidates and the candidates’ own views by listening to the spin which is on every television and radio news program in the country. And I’m not just talking about the Republican and right-wing programs. I fully include the Democratic and left-wing programs as well.

We really have become absolutely accustomed to political commentary from our televisions. Shows with personalities like Chris Matthews, Bill O’Reilly, Al Franken and anyone else you can come up with tell us what to think about the opposition and those they personally support every day.

I fully admit that while I was in Europe and could only get the spin and not the substance of the candidates themselves, I created some pretty erroneous positions on the candidates – Kerry in particular, as I hadn’t heard much about him before I left. My experience with spin is I am sure shared by a lot of people, and can probably tell stories similar to my own – until they actually heard the candidates speak, they had only the commentators to tell them what was going on.

It seems that now you don’t even need the candidates anymore. After the debates, for example, each network lined up teams of opposing spinners and had them go at it.

After listening to them for 10 minutes, you could very well forget what the candidates had actually said, which, I maintain, is the point.

The media, and especially the politicians, don’t want the people of this country to think all too much – it makes their jobs more difficult otherwise. After all, it is easier to center a campaign on sound bites rather than on substance.

While spinning on television is bad enough, I have something else which I believe to be far worse – polling. After seeing God-knows how many polls conducted during this election, I start to wonder what is the point in actually voting on election day?

The polls and their pollsters have already decided which states are going to Kerry or to Bush. Why even show up?

I’m sure voter apathy has a lot to do with polling. I mean, what is the point of a Republican voting in New York, or a Democrat voting in Texas, when you’re told a couple hundred times that the state will definitely be voting one way or another? The whole concept of the modern swing state is based on polling data.

The definition of swing state in the pre-modern media age was based on the state going back and forth from one election to the next.

Now we’re finally finding out that polls are in fact, on the whole, inaccurate! Pollsters fail to take into account anything beyond the “registered voters,” the “likely voters,” etc.

What about people without a fixed line who are not in the phone book – in other words, cell phones? What about those voters who haven’t voted before? What about voters who don’t register until three weeks before the election? The areas of possible error that these polls can contain continue ad infinitum, yet we continue to treat them as if they’re above reproach.

Something about this should be done. Unfortunately, nothing will be done.

Newmark can be reached at mnewmark@campustimes.org.



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