Mind Matters: The joy of polling

What percentage of Aussies want the country to become a republic? What percentage believe in heaven? Have aliens from space visited the earth? What is your all-time favourite book? All these are questions pollsters and others ask the public.

We want to know what others think, even when we are sure we are right and everyone who disagrees is wrong.

I recently started conducting polls myself - online. My first poll asked my Behaviour Modification students to choose a theme song for the course from five choices suggested to me by former students.

David Bowie's Changes won in a landslide, perhaps because the students have to complete a behaviour-change project.

Drunk from my success in prompting dozens of students to vote for a song, I started creating polls for my Facebook groups.

I asked the innovative teaching group members whether they are teaching in person or online. Most teach online.

I also created a poll for my Facebook psychology group asking whether they think handshaking will become common again in Australia in their lifetime. Eighty per cent said yes.

I am tempted to ask you, my beloved readers, a poll question, but there is no easy way for you to respond.

Also, I don't know what to ask.

To what age would you like to live? How many rolls of toilet paper do you have at home?

Here is what I can do: I will give you the results of a poll of one person - me. I would like to live to 90 to beat the average for men and to reach a round number.

I have 50 rolls of toilet paper at home. I like round numbers - I bet you do too.

Now you can compare your answers to mine. See, this is fun.

Wouldn't you like to see how a representative sample of Aussies would answer?

I cannot stop writing without telling you the results of the poll questions I mentioned at the start. A 2018 poll showed that 52 per cent of Aussies want a republic. A 2017 poll indicated that 40 per cent of us believe in heaven.

Another 2017 poll showed that 34 per cent of us think space aliens have visited the earth. Different polls point to different favourite books, but The Book Thief by Australian Marcus Zusak seems to be it.

You might like me to put together the results of those polls to reveal a stunning insight into humanity. Here it is: People have an opinion on just about everything.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story Do you find opinion polls fun? Yes or no? first appeared on The Canberra Times.