A Poll with One Right Answer

by Tobin Grant

How would you answer this question:

National health care changes being pushed by President Obama, Senator Reid, and Speaker Pelosi would institute rationing of medical care by an unelected board that can reject surgeries, drugs, or therapies which you or your loved ones may need. There are also great concerns about euthanasia. Do such documented facts make you want to stop changes to our health care system?

The Family Research Council (FRC) is calling as many people in Louisiana as they can find and asking them this question.  But is the goal research or something else?

This seems to be a classic example of a “push poll.”  Often, the goal of asking such loaded questions to so many people is to “push” public opinion, not to measure it.  In this case, Louisiana is the home for Senator Mary Landrieu, a moderate Democrat who has often opposed federal funding of abortion.  This a key issue in the health care debate, and Senator Landrieu’s vote could be critical to the bill’s passage or defeat.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) condemns push polls, calling them “unethical political telemarketing.”

According to AAPOR, characteristics of a push poll include:

— One or only a few questions are asked, all about a single candidate or a single issue.
— The questions are uniformly strongly negative (or sometimes uniformly positive) descriptions of the candidate or issue.
— The organization conducting the calls is not named, or a phony name is used.
— Evasive answers are given in response to requests for more information about the survey.
— The number of people called is very large, sometimes many thousands.
— The calls are not based on a random sample.

It remains to be seen how the FRC will report its findings, but I’m willing to bet that most Louisianans will answer the question in a way that will support the FRC’s position on health care.

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