If I somehow twisted the arm of a politician to stand up in front of microphones or on the House floor to say that elephants are really Martians, the media would find some way to turn that into a headline which said "Are Elephants Martians? Experts Weigh In." The experts would then parade across the screen, but because the Martian-Elephant Liberty Think Tank (MELTT) already had white papers written which proved that Martians do indeed exist and fuzzy images seem to indicate there might be some resemblance to elephants, that expert would also take his seat at the pundits' table and so it would come to pass that we all be asked to accept as fact that it is not entirely insane to believe that elephants are Martians.
Next, they would commission a poll to see how people feel about elephants being Martians so they could get some experts to come on television and tell you why they're Martians.
Oh, the Sacred Polls, how we do worship them.
Just as opinions are placed into the mainstream via the highest, holiest institutions of thought -- think tanks -- so too are those opinions hardened by the pollsters, who in some cases, admit they use their data-gathering efforts to shape ideas. Instead of asking questions which then elicit responses, they take data and form a narrative, which is then pushed along by the linguists and thinkers, while some pollsters then convert the poll itself into the narrative.
This is how it works. Don't believe me? I swear to you this headline actually exists on a mainstream newspaper website: A third of Earthlings believe in UFOs, would befriend aliens.
Not only does it exist on that major website, it was a trending item on Memeorandum's Political News Page. No lie, and look where it is: