Those of you who read my rants know that I have major differences with Jane Hamsher and some of the folks at her Firedoglake Empire. Although I agree with them on many things, I don’t agree with their tactics when dealing with President Obama and others who differ with them on issues. One of the most recent examples of her tactics was the slanted poll she sponsored in Arkansas’ 2nd district, which ended up causing Vic Snyder, the one on the losing end of the poll, to withdrawal from the race. Most people who’ve looked at it say Hamsher’s poll was the reason for his quitting. Nate Silver rips apart the questions they asked…
So, for all that work, the poll shows a whopping 4-point decline in Snyder’s poll numbers, and a 2-point increase in Griffin’s — not even outside of the margin of error. We don’t know how much of that has to do with opposition to the mandate versus the balance of the bill since the poll doesn’t unpack them — they could have asked an additional question or two to tease this out, but they didn’t.
And that 4-point decline — which may or may not be statistically significant and which may or may not have anything to with the individual mandate — comes only after they’d asked five or six questions in a row that framed the mandate in a negative light, and also reminded people for no particular reason about just how happy they are with their coverage in the status quo — all while using robopolling technology that was never really designed to ask complex sets of policy questions like these.
Great work, guys!
In contrast to Hamsher’s approach to polling, Daily Kos is all over the proper way to conduct a poll. They lay out the methodology and policies that clearly are meant to get fair accurate results. Here is the first thing covered in their published guidelines.
1) Questionnaire or survey instrument: This is the list of questions that will be asked in the poll.
First of all, it is vital to ask the question as fairly and objectively as possible. The exact wording of the questions and their order in the questionnaire are obviously important, as this can be the most controversial part of any poll. To provide full transparency, we publish the exact questions we ask, in the order asked…
…What must be emphasized is that it is important to be objective and have the facts straight when asking any issue question. Adjectives cannot be used in asking such questions, period. A question about the death penalty, for example, needs to be asked fairly and straightforwardly, with no embellishment: “Do you favor or oppose the death penalty?”
Nate Silver’s piece is most excellent, I recommend you read the whole thing. It clearly shows how polling in the wrong hands can produce very slanted results. The media has embraced polls as the gospel these days., no matter how bad they are done. And really, did you see the results of the last Daily Kos poll, here are some results. Do you want these folks setting policy for us?
Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama?
Not Sure 33
So, when you combine the not sure and the yes, that’s 86% of republicans who either think Sarah Palin is more qualified than President Obama or they really don’t know. Wow! President of Harvard Law Review vs. beauty pageant contestant and news anchor. Hmmmmm, which one would be more qualified?