Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Readers and books diverge, but is the news really as bad as pop pollsters claim?


Now comes the latest in a long line of those pop polls mass media loves. What better way to grab attention? An Associated Press-Ipsos poll reveals 1 of 4 of American adults didn’t read a book in 2006. This begs the obvious question: what about the other 3? And it begs a question I love to ask. Who has time to squander yapping on a phone with a pollster? What type of personality agrees to do this? Come to think of it, questions are going off in my brain like light bulbs. I’m an avid reader, but often, there’s simply not a book on store shelves that makes me pull out my wallet and fork over my cash (or do the one-click purchase at amazon or other online retailers). I have a veritable library here at home; I like to re-read books that have pleased or interested me. So much of what is published today is disposable literature.

I suspect some of those non-readers do indeed read, just not books. The Internet provides the largest library in history, right at your fingertips, with lots of free content about every subject known to mankind. A book is one of many vehicles for words. Now, thanks to technology, we have a choice of vehicle.

I also read Democrats read more books than Republicans. This was determined by polling 1,003 adults. But here’s the rub—those adults were willing to talk to a stranger on the phone and hopefully—because there’s no way to prove otherwise—tell the truth about how many books they allegedly read. Pop polls are like pop science. Pollsters from both political parties love to draw a dividing line because that’s how they get votes and promote dogma, using terms like “red” and “blue” to suggest your level of worth and/or morality.

“Fat is contagious,” one study reveals. Think about it. Think about your family, friends and coworkers. If fat is contagious, wouldn’t they all be fat? Silly stuff, these declarations.

Pop polls and pop science. Take them for what they’re worth, somewhere on the level of a wad of used gum having a sidewalk meltdown in summer heat.

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