Jewish World Review April 22, 2002/ 11 Iyar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Consumer Reports

Let's take a poll: Is evil really bad? | Most public-opinion polls are like Ouija boards. They're great fun as long as you don't pay them much mind.

Even the pollsters caution that a poll is only a snapshot of opinion at the moment the poll is taken. The only political polls that can be taken without a lot of salt are horse-race polls taken in the last few days of a campaign. These polls can tell you who's ahead and who has the momentum. The best ones are usually on the money.

Some Democrats are in a lather this week because certain polls show that the odds-on favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in '04 is John McCain, who insists he's not even a Democrat. But so desperate are the Democrats for a credible opponent for George W. Bush that the man who isn't there looks better than all the men who are.

But the worst polls - and this includes most polls - are those manipulated to tell clients what they want to hear. The folks at The Washington Post, for an example close at hand, manipulate polls as well as anyone. My own private polls suggest The Post's polls are wrong 74.52 percent of the time (with a 4.31 percent margin of error).

The silliest manipulation of credulity is the online "survey," which is not a poll at all, but an exercise in massaging the vanity of readers. These "surveys" usually ask questions for which there are no actual answers, but with three or four "answers" offered for ticking. My favorite minor-league baseball team, for example, asks readers to decide whether what the reader likes best is the club's new major-league affiliation, the new starting time of night games or the new design of the Web site. Anyone who wants to vote for the new brand of mustard for the hot dogs is out of luck.

One of these fatuous surveys this week splattered not mustard, but egg, all over the faces of our friends at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has not found an audible voice to denounce Islamist terrorism against America, Israel or anyone else, but swoons every time someone gives a hard look to a swarthy Arab or terrorist look-alike in the checkout line at Safeway.

CAIR, seeking to "weigh public opinion," put this question to viewers of its online site this week: Should Ariel Sharon be tried as a war criminal? The answer came back with the first of 513 votes, yes he should, by a margin of 94 percent to 6 percent. But before CAIR could find out who the satanic 6 percenters were, another Web site,, saw the poll and put up a link to CAIR's Web site, opening the vote to thousands.

You might think, if you were terminally naive, that our friends at CAIR would have been pleased. Many Americans could now participate, and many flowers would bloom in the garden of American opinion. Oh happy day. Eight hours later, more than 11,950 Americans had voted, and the vote was 93 percent to 7 percent. Only this time 93 percent said Mr. Sharon should not be tried, convicted, hanged, decapitated, shot, injected or gassed.

This was not good. There could be no breathless press release, reporting that "by an overwhelming margin Americans support blowing up Ariel Sharon."

The Islamist small-d democrats, eager as always to protect and respect dissent, merely wiped out - blew up, you might say - the dissenting votes, blandly explaining to an inquirer from the Weekly Standard that "someone hacked into the site" and 11,000 viewers voted. CAIR promised that it would get to the bottom of the "nefarious attempts" to enable everyone to vote.

Except in Paris, London, Madrid or Brussels, the campaign to eradicate Israel had a bad week. Thousands turned out in Washington to cheer the Israelis and send a message to George W. and his men to remember who America's friends are and to get with the program. Colin Powell returned to Washington, having got nowhere with Yasser Arafat, freshly insulted by the president of Egypt and the king of Morocco. The administration tried to put a positive spin on its yo-yo policy, dancing down the string with Yasser Arafat one day, up with the Israelis the next. But nobody was buying it.

New polls from the Pew Institute are just in, showing that 3 of 4 Americans understand very well that the survival of the Jewish state is at stake, and are rooting passionately for the Israelis. And if that were not enough to give the average American confidence in his judgment, there was affirming news from Europe, where animosity to Jews was invented. The Euros are cheering the Palestinian terrorists by a margin of 2-to-1. What else do we need to know?

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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