Anatomy of a biased poll

I see that Fox News has released a poll, from which they are claiming 71% of respondents want “less government in their lives.”  Considering my distrust of Fox News’ intentions, i felt I should take a look at the actual polling questions (PDF file):

8. The Obama administration has recently said there are signs the economy is starting to improve. Do you believe the economy is starting to get better, or is it that the administration is putting a positive spin on things?

Obvious loaded question. Kill the first sentence, then reduce it to “Do you believe the economy is getting better or worse?” This is much more neutral.

10. Based on Barack Obama’s criticism of Bush administration deficits during the presidential campaign, are you surprised the Obama administration is increasing the nation’s deficit, or not?

Not loaded, but a reflects the general bias of the poll.

14. Are you worried the country is moving away from capitalism and more toward socialism, or not?

Again, reflection of general bias. As is:

For reference: Does the news about stimulus packages and the federal government giving financial aid to several major corporations make you feel like the country is drifting away from capitalism and more toward socialism or don’t you feel that way?

The major objection I have to this is the implication that socialism is the bad thing as opposed to capitalism, the good thing. These two questions play upon unfounded fears and might influence more “yes” replies.

15. Which do you think would do more to improve the nation’s economy right now? (READ RESPONSES 1 AND 2)
SCALE: 1. Cutting taxes on individuals and businesses 2. Reducing federal spending by the government 3. (Both) 4. (Don’t know)

Where’s “Increasing taxes on wealthy individuals and large corporations,” “More spending by the government,” or even “neither?”

Very loaded question that was designed to get at least one answer the pollster wanted, and none they didn’t.

36. How do you think the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution? (READ RESPONSES “1” AND “2”)
SCALE: 1. No matter what the outcome, the court should follow what the Framers meant when they wrote the Constitution
2. If necessary, the court should ignore what the Framers meant to reach the outcome it feels is appropriate for today

What about “The court should interpret what the framers wrote and apply it to modern circumstances?”

Look at the reference question asked in August, which is presented in the document after the above question:

For reference: Which of the following comes closest to your view of how the Constitution should be interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court? (ROTATE CHOICES) SCALE: 1. Judges should base their rulings on what they believe the Constitution’s framers meant when it was originally written 2. Judges should base their rulings on what they believe the Constitution means in today’s world 3. (In between/Combination) (Don’t know)

THAT is a more neutral question which is not designed to influence the response.

Again, the new question changes the “negative” reply to influence the desired response.

52. At the request of the American Civil Liberties Union, later this month the Pentagon will release photos of alleged detainee abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. How likely do you think it is that the release of these photos will cause a backlash against the United States and endanger the lives of U.troops: Very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely or not at all likely?

The ACLU  portion probably should have been omitted, as most people view the ACLU as a “controversial” group, thus it might have some influence over the answer. However I don’t consider the question “loaded.”

65. Who do you think the White House will put in a muzzle first — Vice President Joe Biden or First Dog Bo?

Funny, but useless question.

To summarize:  this poll, while most questions being neutral or not obviously biased, is in itself biased and has loaded questions designed to elicit desired responses.   Typical for Fox News.

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