When we had the Taliban on the run in Afghanistan and were bombing the crap out of Tora Bora, CNN ran a poll asking people if they thought Osama bin Laden were still alive. It wasn't an open ended question -- you were stuck with either 'yes' or 'no.' Missing was the most obvious response, "How the hell should I know?" Public opinion would have no effect on whether or not bin Laden was dead.
Sometimes polls are taken for no reason other than to report the findings. "Who do you like for president in '08?" falls into that category, at this point -- although that's becoming less and less true as time goes on.
An AP-AOL poll taken recently sort of falls into both categories. Polling people about how respondents feel about the new year, it has plenty of "How the hell should I know?" questions and some responses that are actually useful. In the former category, we learn that "35 percent are optimistic a cure for cancer will be found." In the latter, we learn that the Bush administration is losing the war on science and "74 percent believe global warming will get worse."
Here's what gets me, though. "25 percent believe it is at least somewhat likely that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in 2007." Is there a bigger "How the hell should I know?" for believers?
I suppose that if you believe in Jesus and believe in the second coming, you pretty much have to answer, "Somewhat likely," whether or not you really expect it to happen in 2007. It's not really a prediction so much as it's being logically consistent. Absent the answer, "anything's possible, I guess," "somewhat" is about as close as you can get.
That question -- and the response -- has caused alarm in some. The blog Evangelical Right -- which is critical of the evangelical right -- calls the the response to the question, "Unbelievable," in a one word post. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks writes at OpEdNews.com, "25% of the Country is Certifiably Insane!"
To tell the truth, I'm surprised by this reaction. In a country that's 79% christian, only 25% think that a cornerstone of their faith is even somewhat likely. This does not show an excessive religiosity among respondents -- it shows the opposite. It doesn't help that this stat is being widely misrepresented as "25% think Jesus will return in 2007!"
Didn't we just go through an election where the bible bangers lost big? Why, yes we did. It pays to worry about the polls that matter and not the polls taken as filler by press services.