Polls are everywhere, especially during this election year. People such as TV commentator Stuart Rothenberg, who spoke to the AIA Grassroots opening plenary session February 20, make a livelihood from interpreting this endless stream of data. He even referred to himself as a “handicapper” of political races. Others seem to depend more on selectively (rather than accurately) interpreting poll and survey data and, as the saying goes, use research like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support rather than illumination.
When the motivation is to convince others, though, the motivation is less pure. Do 9 out of 10 dentists really recommend my toothpaste? After decades of questioning this approach, we tend to get jaded. We hear that research indicates coffee, chocolate, meat, carbohydrates, you name it was bad yesterday, good today, and a question mark for tomorrow. So what is the balance between cynicism and realism; wanting to believe and being gullible? (And did you know that “gullible” is the most commonly used word in the English language that is not in any dictionary?)