Zogby on bath salts: when the narrative drives the poll. Or: #OpinionFail

Bath salts. They’re pretty scary.

But are they quite as scary as some would have you believe? Over the years, the spread of nominally-legal drugs like those labeled “bath salts” or others that simulate the effects of marijuana have crept to near-ubiquitous popularity in head shops all over the country. All while most of us weren’t really watching. Now that the media is watching, sometimes the reports can get a bit ridiculous.

This blog is certainly not above discussing the topic. We’ve talked about fake weed, we’ve explored the common components of bath salts. And we’re not even remotely above having a little bit of fun with face-eating zombies. Still, our objective at this blog is to inform about the science behind the headlines, and I feel certain we’re not sensationalizing anything. Then, there’s this poll from Zogby:

IBOPE | Inteligência Plurality of Adults Say Law Enforcement Not Doing Enough to Combat ‘Bath Salts’ drug Craze

The poll finds 51% of US adults familiar with bath salts, and 47% unfamiliar, a third of which are not at all familiar with the drug (32%). When asked if law enforcement is doing enough to prevent the use of bath salts, 22% they were doing enough, 37% say law enforcement could do more and 41% are not sure.

Ok. Quick math… (carry the one)…

So, 59% of Americans have an opinion on a subject that only 51% of Americans say they’re familiar with? At what point do we simply discard a poll altogether? I would have thought this was it, but instead, Zogby runs with the headline, “Plurality of Adults.” And by plurality, they mean 37% of Americans – a number unlikely to win any election this side of Canada. The reality of this poll is: nearly half the country doesn’t know what the hell Zogby pollsters are talking about and somehow, six percent decided to say, “fuck it,” and render an opinion anyway.

But it drives a sense of urgency. It drives the narrative and more importantly, it drives readership. “A plurality” of your fellow citizens think this is a big deal, so you probably should, too.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.