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George Gallup has a lot to answer for

He being the father of the opinion poll, obviously. Given the amount of harmless entertainment I derive from polls, I am not exactly well placed to criticise them per se, but I do not think that basing policy on what plays well with ABC1s in marginals in the West Midlands is going to create a coherent philosophy

Anyway, it would appear that vox populi is being listened to in a context that is frankly alarming:

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department and its agencies have spent on (a) opinion polling, (b) focus groups and (c) other forms of market research in each year since 1997; what such surveys have been commissioned; and what the purpose was of each.

Mr. Kevan Jones: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, records are available of the amounts spent on polling and focus groups by the central media and communications organisation dating back to 2001-02 (peaking at £274,056 in 2005-6. C)


Now what might the pollsters have been asking? Would it have been along the lines of 'who do you fancy a war with?', or something more like 'which of the following do you prefer - footage of a: explosions, b: mass surrenders of bedraggled insurgents or c: soldiers playing football with grubby urchins?' Or indeed, 'do you prefer winning hearts and minds, or should we kill them all as God will know his own?'


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