Pew….Your Poll Stinks

Almost every time I see results from various polls I ask myself; ‘are there really that many people who believe that’? You may have asked yourself the very same question. I seem to be asking myself that more frequently lately, especially when I see polls dealing with the President’s approval ratings.

It’s enough of a mystery to me how almost half of the people polled think that Obama is doing a good job. But the results of some of the other recent polls surprise me even more. The more I think about it, the more it provokes me to arrive at a solution. Eventually it leads me to a few possible explanations:

1. Almost half of the people surveyed really think that way. Which, hey, there are some real ignorant people in this country, and Obama is a real good at BS, so it could be accurate.

2. The polls are picking the demographics that will give them the results they are looking for.

3. The company doing the polling either supports or dislikes the person or group at the center of the poll.

While number one is very likely, two and three shouldn’t be likely if the poll was conducted by a reputable company. The results of a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center caused me to dig a little to satisfy my curiosity.

Their recent poll under the headline:

Public Would Blame Both Sides if Government Shuts Down

Tea Party Reps Say Stand on Principle Even If It Means a Shutdown

This was a good one to start my investigation with.

The Pew Research Center is widely known, and has been around for quite some time, so I am going to assume they have at least some credibility. Their political leaning or affiliation, I am not familiar with, and don’t really care about, unless the results are the direct result of points two and three.

To my surprise, I found the results to be the result of something different. The questions themselves.

Reviewing at their Topline questionnaire I found these questions:


What? I’m really suspicious now. Why hold them? It can only be they are holding out until they see which side of this whole Budget battle wins. Which is BS, but moving on

Q.4 How much if anything, have you heard about the possibility that the federal government might shut

down this year if Republicans and the Obama administration can’t agree on a budget [READ IN ORDER]?

The responses (only sighting one you can read the entire result by using the link provided) were stunning:

A lot           A little            Nothing at all          Don’t Know

31%              42%                        25%                    2%

42% responded “A little“. You cannot be serious, this has been one of the most talked about subjects, in every form of media over the last few weeks and 42% know “A little” about it. Additional questions posed to this group should be worded carefully from this point on. Since they only know “A little” about the subject, any additional answers are the results of those being polled only having half the knowledge needed to make an informed response.

25% responded “Nothing at all“. First off; do these people live in a cave, in a different country, on a different planet, or are they that cut off from the rest of the world? Since this group knows “nothing at all” about the subject, then any additional answers they provide on the subject are worthless, and should not be included in the results. In fact the pollsters should stop asking this group any additional questions and just thank them for their time.

2%Don’t Know“. You don’t know if you know or not? Then who does? The pollster should just hang up on these people.

Q.5 If there is not a budget agreement by the end of next week the federal government will have to shut down nonessential services until a budget is passed. What would you like lawmakers who share your views on this issue to do? [READ AND RANDOMIZE] Asked with three choices.

What the hell kind of question is that? First off, how does the pollster know what your views are? Is that one of the questions? If so I didn’t see it. And how do these people know what the lawmaker’s views are? The possible answers to this question could be manipulated not only by the very phrasing of this question, but by verbal emphasis on one or two of the three choices.

You might as well ask: A boat has a hole in it, and if the people who share your views on boats, decided to jump out, would you –

  1. A. Jump out too?
  2. B. Stay in the boat?
  3. C. Don’t know?

I wonder how the results of that poll would turn out. Silly you say? Does my question pose any more hypothetical possibilities that those of the poll?

The next question in the poll:

Q.6 If the federal government shuts down because [RANDOMIZE: Republicans and the Obama administration] can’t agree on a budget, who do you think would be more to blame: [READ IN

SAME ORDER AS ABOVE: Republicans or the Obama administration]?

What about the Senate? Is the budget battle was between Obama and the Republicans, or is the budget battle between the Senate and the House? Why inject Obama in the middle of this? Obama has a daily ‘beer summit’ with Boehner and Reid and then jets off to another state.

The question should have been phrased like this:

Q.6 If the federal government shuts down because [RANDOMIZE: Republicans and the Democrats] can’t agree on a budget, who do you think would be more to blame: [READ IN SAME ORDER AS ABOVE: Republicans or the Democrats.]?

Or This:

Q.6 If the federal government shuts down because [RANDOMIZE: Boehner and Reid] can’t agree on a budget, who do you think would be more to blame: [READ IN SAME ORDER AS ABOVE: Boehner or Reid.]?

Maybe then you could get a more accurate idea of what the people think about this potential budget impasse. If you want real answers, then ask real questions! And since only 31% of those polled know “a lot” about what is going on, then stick with their answers only.

My faith in Pew Research polls is shrinking rapidly.

Here are two questions I think they could, or should ask:

1. Since the 2011 Federal Budget, which was presented in Feb of 2010, has not been passed 14 months later, who do you think would be more to blame: [RANDOMIZE: Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi.]?

2. Since the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress all of last year, who do you think would be more to blame: [RANDOMIZE: The Democrats or Obama.]?

What kind of results would you get then? I venture to say they would be quite different.

There are a couple of additional questions in this particular Pew poll that we could take a closer look at, but you get the idea.

I can’t wait to see the results of questions one through three.

So, if you use oddly phrased questions, you can get answers that can be compiled into any sort of results you wish.

In conclusion:

Pew….your poll stinks!