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Who is the Average American and Why Do We Care?

avg_american.jpgWhere did we ever get this concept of the average American or the typical citizen? And how did people get so comfortable telling pollsters their personal information, from what type of laundry detergent they use to how many times per month they have sex? These are important questions for all of us who pay attention to or participate in surveys. They also force us to think about the notion of privacy. Even asking someone who they voted for is a personal question... yet there are plenty of people who willingly give an answer to a pollster, a complete stranger. Just ask Gallup.

Why do so many people answer? To help understand the origins and possible reasons behind America’s poll-hungry culture, take a look at this op ed piece in the L.A. Times, written by UPenn professor Sarah Igo. She gives us a quick & dirty history of America’s love affair with surveys and polls, and she has some great insight and theory as to why and how we came to rely on them. Igo also touches on the limits of polls and early reaction to them.

Link: "Who Are We? Ask a Poll," Los Angeles Times


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