The Edge: Competitive Edge Blog

Polls Aren’t Pork

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Frustrated Americans frequently rage about wasteful government spending, the kind of stuff we call “pork.” Pork might not have a formal definition but we know it when we see it, like this recent report about federal spending for bomb sniffing elephants and studies about pollution from barbecues.

A recent study by Canada’s Marketing Research and Intelligence Association found Canadian policy and political experts believe it’s very important for the federal government to consult with Canadians and relevant stakeholders when making decisions, and public opinion research (POR) is an effective consultative tool to do this. The study also suggests government decision-making can be improved through data and information provided by research. In addition, the study finds lack of public consultation can contribute to civic disengagement, political apathy and cynicism.

Dubious government research studies end up on many lists of pork barrel spending projects.  But as the Canadian study found, government agencies need solid information from the public to help guide their decisions. What wasn’t mentioned by the study is the potential to save money, something most taxpayers I know like their government officials to do.

Take placing a bond measure on the ballot, for example. If a bond measure is destined to go down in flames with voters, it would be smart to know this before spending a few million dollars on the due diligence and preparation necessary to put the measure on the ballot.

“We The People” want government to listen to us (I know, not listen in on us). Listening to us ought to be done in a methodical, rigorous, and balanced way. This is my viewpoint not only as a professional researcher but also as a citizen and especially as a business owner who doesn’t like seeing his tax dollars wasted on bad ideas based on bad information.

Government spending money without a good reason is a bad idea. But when a $50,000 investment in research avoids a million dollar mistake, I call that “good government.”

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