The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published April 21, 2001.)

There's something annoying about public opinion polls. In the first place, the public doesn't have an opinion. It's people who have opinions. Any time you take the individual out of the equation, something is wrong.

The other thing that makes public opinion polls unreliable is the suggestion on the part of the organization taking the poll that we are all predictable. They think they can tell everything about what all of us think by finding out what a few of us think.

It's differences of opinion that make life fun. It would be a dull world if we all agreed on everything. We might agree more if everyone had the same facts. It's usually ignorance on the part of one of the people in an argument that creates differences of opinion. (You understand that I don't think the ignorant one is ever me.)

For the most part, people are so pleased with what they think that they don't want to confuse themselves with facts. They might have to change their opinion. We all get set in our ways and so comfortable with what we believe that we don't want to change. We have our arguments. Don't confuse us with the facts.

It annoys me to hear someone say, "That's your opinion," "That's what you think," or "Everyone has a right to his own opinion." They think of it as a way to end an argument without having a winner, but the fact is, everyone is not entitled to an opinion. Anyone who doesn't know what he or she is talking about doesn't have the right to an opinion. You can carry tolerance too far.

One of the problems with settling on an opinion is the difficulty of getting good information about anything. You certainly can't decide whom to vote for based on what politicians tell you about themselves.

Americans are infamously ignorant about foreign affairs. We have our problems and are not much concerned with anyone else's. We're not patient reading newspaper stories about other countries, and television news does better with the local murder than with news of an economic crisis in Greece. It isn't quick or easy to get the facts on any foreign event, so we can't make an intelligent decision on whether we're for or against anything.

Having an informed opinion is further complicated by the fact that there are always people with special interests. They try to alter the facts or change the way they're presented to make them sound more favorable to their position.

We like the idea of having an open mind, but at some point you have to close the doors and settle on something you believe. You can't have an open mind forever.

People say, "I have faith in" something. Faith ignores the evidence and takes a position regardless of the facts. My dictionary says: "Faith: belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

Opinion is a thing all by itself. It doesn't matter what the opinion is.

If we hear someone giving a political opinion, we're more apt to think what an idiot he is to have that opinion than we are opposed to the opinion itself.

Home in bed last night, I got thinking of other subjects about which you could start an argument anywhere by stating your opinion about them. I'll list a few. You can clip the list and keep it in your pocket to bring out next time the conversation lags at a party:



Catholic, Protestant, none

Red, blue, green, yellow

Sweet-sour, crunchy-soft, rare-well done



I am, in order: liberal, football, none, green, sour, crunchy, rare, late and cold.

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