Opinion Polls and Yes Prime Minister

This story from the grist about a push poll arranged by Rasmussen showing 67% support for the reinstatement of offshore oil drilling in the United States reminded me of this most delightful exchange from Yes Prime Minister, still one of my all time favourite television shows and one that taught me almost everything I needed to know about parliamentary politics at a tender age. The show is about British politics through the eyes of an earnest but bumbling politician, his very experienced bureaucratic handler and his secretary with divided loyalties. The show is incredibly insightful and funny at the same time. But, before I get to my favourite part, some background…

It’s that time of the year when the republicans want to enrich their oil buddies by opening up oil drilling offshore of the U.S. This year, the high price of gas provides a convenient excuse and rallying point. After all, who wouldn’t want to pay less for gas. Of course, a U.S government study done by the Energy Information Administration in 2007 indicates that at best, you would see a 3% increase in production by 2030, and we all know how much that would affect gasoline prices this summer. Yet, here’s the first question from the “poll”

In order to reduce the price of gas, should drilling be allowed in offshore oil wells off the coasts of California, Florida, and other states

No really, what are you supposed to say? Can such reputable firms lie to you like that? Anyway, Joseph Romm from the original gristmill post breaks it down completely so I don’t have to. but after reading his post, come back and read the following exchange from Yes Prime Minister, and do listen to the actual audio clip from the show.

Yes Prime Minister – Season 1Episode 2 (warning: Strangely formatted website)

Sir Humphrey: “You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don’t want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think they respond to a challenge?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?”

Bernard Woolley: “Oh…well, I suppose I might be.”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes or no?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told you can’t say no to that. So they don’t mention the first five questions and they publish the last one.”

Bernard Woolley: “Is that really what they do?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren’t many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result.”

Bernard Woolley: “How?”

Sir Humphrey: “Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the growth of armaments?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”Sir Humphrey: “Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?”

Bernard Woolley: “Yes”

Sir Humphrey: “There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample.”

That is what I think about opinion polls!

Similar Posts


  1. Well… I haven’t received a push poll from any GOP firms seeking to enrich their Big Oil pals, but am (still) in favor of offshore drilling. Why?

    The United States sends billions of dollars to our political enemies for a strategic resource, oil. That is INSANE.

    Drill here, drill now.

    Even a liberal dolt like Obama gets it.

    We do agree on some points: I generally refuse to take polls and surveys when they call – which is all the time because my wife takes them. Also, I think “Yes, Prime Minister” is brilliant.

Comments are closed.