Popular Opinion

A few years ago, there was a brief moment in the NFL where all anyone could talk about was Tim Tebow.  Tebow was a controversial figure who I didn’t have much of an opinion on, but he sparked a comment from Chuck Klosterman (I think) that changed the way I think about political discussions.  I’ve never been able to track the exact quote down, but it was something like “half the country loves him, half the country hates him, but both sides think they’re an oppressed minority.” Now I don’t know if that was really true with Tebow, but I think about it every time someone says “what no one is talking about…” or “the conventional wisdom is….” or even just a basic “most people think is….” I always get curious about how we know this.  It’s not unusual that I’ll hear someone I know and love assert that the media never talks about something I think the media constantly talks about. It’s a perplexing issue.

Anyway, that interest is why I was super excite by this Washington Post puzzle that showed how easily our opinions about what others think can be skewed even if we’re not engaging in selection bias.  It also illustrates two things well: 1) why the opinion of well known people can be important and 2) why a well known person advocating for something does not automatically mean that issue is “settled”.

Good things to consider the next time I find myself claiming that “no one realizes” or “everyone thinks that”.