Jeff Bishop jbishop at nwu.edu
Sat Feb 4 15:30:11 EST 1995

macgyver at xensei.com wrote:
> In article <3gp3q6$ppk at ccnet3.ccnet.com>, smatthew at ccnet.com wrote:
> > I am doing a poll on several subjects for my speech and debate class:
> > 1. Eliminating Welfare
> > 2. Lifting the embargo on Cuba
> > 3. Legalize Prostituion
> > 4. Pass a Nationwide Prop 187
> > 5. Eliminate Arms sales to foreign nations
> > 6. Banning the media from trials.
> I disagree with your wording of these statements.  You're asking people to
> side *fully* with an extreme position ...or not at all.  These statements
> are clearly slanted left of center.  It would have been better to say
> "Overhaul Welfare" rather than "Eliminate..."

That depends on what you are asking - maybe a sizeable chunk of people DO
want to eliminate welfare rather than merely tinker with it.

>  Much better to say
> "Restrict media access" than to outright "ban" it.

Ditto - just be careful how you interpret the results.  If someone else
asked "Restrict media access" he may well end up interpreting the results
to mean "ban" - and someone else can then show that the number favoring
outright bans is much lower.

> Prop 187 is also an
> extreme measure, even for those who favor a similar (yet scaled down)
> measure.

Extreme, huh?  Most of the voters in California don't appear to think so.
> I suggest that the next time you poll, try to get an *accurate* count. 
> This is only accomplished by wording without such a clear agenda.

I disagree - your suggestions are much more ambiguous than his.  What good
is a survey telling us how many people want to "overhaul" welfare?
And do you believe for a minute that any two "yes" answers necessarily
have anything in common?  The results of such a poll would be meaningless.

Suppose, for instance, a pollster asked us how many favor a "reasonable"
minimum wage.  100% would say yes, which every side would then interpret
to mean what they want it to mean.  I favor a "reasonable" minimum wage
myself.  $0.00 strikes me as a pretty reasonable minimum.

> I
> believe that most Americans are moderate... neither utterly conservative,
> nor completely liberal.

In other words, you believe that most Americans don't have much of an
opinion about anything.  I think you are wrong - most of us are "moderate"
only in the sense that we are very liberal on some issues and very 
conservative on others -- not because we are wishy-washy on every 
single issue.  The average may come out the same, but that's all.

>What's wrong with middle-of-the-road?

What's wrong with asking questions that don't automatically assume
that everyone is lukewarm about everything?

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