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Beware of Partisan Push Polling

(Raleigh, NC)—AUG 13, 2013—No sooner had Governor McCrory signed the voter ID bill into law that a group called “Public Policy Polling” breathlessly reported, that their new poll, “conducted over the weekend, finds that only 39% of voters in the state support the voting/elections law to 50% who are opposed to it.”

In the fast-paced competitive newsroom environment, those results can all too quickly be reduced to a sound bite:  A new poll shows that “50 percent of the public opposes the new voter ID bill.” And the partisan spin machine would pile on, claiming that the Republicans really overplayed their hand on the bill . . . blah-blah-blah.

Since numerous surveys consistently find around 75 percent of the public in favor of voter ID, both in North Carolina and nationwide, it made us wonder how PPP manipulated the questions to arouse 50 percent disapproval. Thankfully, they gave us the answer, right on their website!

True political scientist might have broken the bill down into its components to see which provisions the respondents actually opposed; but instead, PPP lumped all of the variables into one question. So, respondents who opposed any single aspect of the law, were lumped into the group counted as “opposing” all of it.

For example, their only relevant question was worded, “Do you support or oppose the bill the legislature passed that shortened early voting by a week, eliminated same-day voter registration, required a photo ID to vote, eliminated straight-party-ticket voting, and allowed voters to be challenged by any registered voter of the county in which they vote rather than just their precinct?”

Now, which is it??!! Do they hate just one aspect? Or do they hate all of it? People who loved, say, voter ID but didn’t really like the idea of eliminating all straight-party voting would have been tricked into saying they “opposed” the bill, all because of the question’s wording!

The immortal words of the late Jim Valvano come to mind as we finally realized how groups like PPP twist surveys. Jimmy V once quipped, “[T]hat man uses statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post—more for support than for illumination.”

Unless PPP really means Partisan Push Polling, one might question their motives. Are they political scientists seeking the nuances of public policy? Or, are they propagandists who use polling as persuasion by other means?

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Link to the PPP survey.

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