POLLS V. SURVEYS! A loaded question in a new poll helps show how news works: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2010
Polls v. surveys and loaded questions: A new Washington Post/ABC poll is full of bad news for Democrats. That said, we mordantly chuckled at one Q-and-A cited by Shailagh Murray in this front-page Washington Post report.
Respondents were asked about the Democrats loss of their filibuster-proof Senate majority. Murray reports what they said:
Fifty-seven percent said it was a good thing when Dems lost their filibuster-proof super-majority. But uh-oh! We couldnt help thinking of that recent Pew information survey, in which only 26 percent of respondents could say how many votes it takes to achieve such a super-majority. Only 26 percent gave the correct answer, even though the question was asked in a multiple-choice format.
In short: Voters arent spending a lot of time puzzling out this situation. Yet voters were happy to state their view about whether the loss of that super-majority was a good thing or bad. Simple story: Voters are constantly asked to state their opinion about matters they dont understand very wellmatters they simply arent following closely. And sure enough! Major reporters take pencil in hand, eager to relate what we tell them.
By the way: The question to which Murray refers seems to be poorly worded. (Question 6just click here.) Mightnt its use of the word cooperate strongly tilt its answer? What a shock! 57 percent said it was a good thing that Obama and the Democrats will be forced to cooperate more! Just a guess: If you worded that question differently, you could get a quite different resultespecially since this isnt a topic on which voters seem to be focused.
With the use of a loaded question, voters are asked to state their view on a topic they know very little about. So it goes as a floundering nations floundering press corps attempts to reel in the news.
PART 3 TOMORROW: Were smashed by the snowand we dont like what we wrote. (A bit too negative about our own side.) Well continue the series tomorrow.