Monday, March 24, 2008

Nonquestions and Nonanswers

The headline of this story from (Palm Beach/Treasure Coast, Florida) is pretty big: U.S. Rep Tim Mahoney floats the idea that a brokered convention could emerge with neither Clinton nor Obama at the top of the ticket but Al Gore. A big question, and a big answer.

But this paragraph just made me cringe:

A recent statewide poll of registered Democratic voters by the St. Petersburg Times and its television partner showed that the campaigning boycott of Florida had little effect on Democratic voters’ choices in the Jan. 29 primary. The poll showed that 56 percent said the lack of campaigning had “no effect at all” on their vote. Also, 77 percent of the people polled said that it is “very important” to them that the results of the Jan. 29 primary count.

Seventy-seven percent of Floridians want their primary vote to count; no problem. But read this again: "56 percent said the lack of campaigning had 'no effect at all' on their vote." First, I hope this wasn't a simple majority, and that another twenty or thirty percent said the lack of campaigning had "little effect" or "very little effect" or whatever the other choices might be. But wouldn't that be the more meaningful statistic, not the 56% who said it had "no effect at all", at least in isolation?

My bigger concern is with the question itself. I don't think Florida owners are actually equipped to answer that question. How can anyone be expected to give a thoughtful answer on whether an event which didn't happen affected or didn't affect their voting decision, especially when that event affects all of the candidates? Non-events are sometimes real causes, but rarely are we actively conscious of that as agents. You may as well ask whether the fact that all of the candidates refrained from bursting into flames affected their vote.

Am I just kooky about this, or does this seem like a nonquestion plus a nonanswer turning into something posing as important news?

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