So I'm sitting at home this evening minding my own business when the phone rings. It's a survey.
I'm not eating dinner, I'm not actually in the middle of anything, and, as someone who holds a sociology degree, I'm generally pre-programmed to answer surveys. (My favorite college professor actually told my graduating class that if she ever found out we'd turned down a survey, she'd personally come and revoke our degrees, since the chances were good that the person doing the survey was a struggling sociologist.) So, I say yes, I'll do the survey.
It's political, naturally, and most of the questions are easy to answer ("How would you rate George Bush's performance on the economy?"). I still think it was a poorly worded survey overall, and I mentioned that a couple times (in a vain attempt to get the person on the phone to tell the survey designers, which I know she won't). When she got to the part with the obligatory demographic questions, I was getting ready to settle back into my evening - when the stupidest questions of all arrived.
First, she asked what my religion was. That kind of came out of nowhere, but when I said I was an atheist she then asked how often I go to church. Now, really. Shouldn't people doing surveys have permission to fill in answers to questions that are blatantly obvious? I mean, unless there's some atheist church somewhere that I don't know about, the chances of me saying I'm an atheist and then saying I go to church even semi-regularly are - how shall I say? - nil.
Oh, but we're not through.
She asked, "Even though the Congressional elections aren't until November, are you more likely to vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate, Darlene Hooley?" (Hooley, FYI, is my district's current representative.) I muttered that there wasn't even a Republican candidate yet, as we haven't had our primaries yet, and frankly there's no guarantee that Hooley's even going to win her nomination (it's a good bet, but nothing's guaranteed), but said - reluctantly - that I'd probably vote for the Democratic candidate.
Then the surveyor said, "Even though you're not inclined to support a Republican candidate now, what are the chances you might support the Republican candidate in November?" And then she started reading off my choices - strong chance, some chance, little chance, or no chance. I couldn't stand it. I said, "I can't answer that question - there isn't even a Republican candidate yet." She paused and said, "Let me read you those choices again and you can tell me..." I interrupted and said, "No, seriously, I can't answer that question. There aren't any choices that work. The question is based on information we won't even have until, like, June." She finally let it go, though I'm sure she wrote something about a belligerent person on the phone.
What the hell? Who designed this damned survey? I get that both political parties are freaking out about the November elections, but seriously - how in the hell are we supposed to answer questions based on information that could only be gained if we had time machines and traveled a few months into the future?!? I'm horrified to think that people are just answering those questions without thinking - and even more horrified to think that the answers will be turned into statistics that someone will use to prove something, when the answers clearly prove nothing at all.