Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Could God Get Re-elected?

Do Americans approve or disapprove of God's performance?

A polling firm, Public Policy Polling (PPP) recently surveyed Americans on their support for congressional leaders, during the recent squabbling over raising the debt ceiling. Only 52% approved of God's overall performance - not very impressive, but still better approval ratings than were given to members of Congress, or to the scandal-plagued media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. This is very bad news for God (and perhaps good news for atheists), but ratings like those are probably enough for most politicians to be re-elected.

The real issue, however, is the absurdity of the poll, and the questionable faith that is often put into political polls. As is often the case, polls and surveys involve poor methodology, and even poorer interpretations of the results - both by the pollsters and the media.

Take the PPP questions about God. Each was prefaced by "If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance [handling of natural disasters; handling of creating the universe, etc.]?" The results are uninterpretable because if you believe God exists, you might be compelled to approve, or face eternal damnation. If you don't believe God exists, then how could you answer, as s/he is not handling anything. All in all, it's bad research methodology (a good example of bad methodology for my colleagues who teach research methods).

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I think the lesson of all of this is to be skeptical when it comes to media representations of research and polls. As far as the PPP pollsters themselves, they committed the cardinal sin of really bad polling methodology. If they believe in God, they are probably going to hell.

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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