Debate Magazine

Partisans Feel They Are Entitled To Their Own Facts

Posted on the 26 February 2013 by Reasoningpolitics @reasonpolitics

rick-scottYesterday I wrote about Oliver Stone’s selective use of history to sell a pre-existing narrative about the 20th century. Today I’d like to explore how partisan outlets like think tanks create facts to support their own narratives. Bloomberg has an interesting piece concerning some recent polling done in Florida.

The right-wing think tank The James Madison Institute has a new poll out claiming that 59 percent of Floridians oppose the extension of Medicaid benefits that Gov Rick Scott just authorized. Do 59 percent of Florida residents actually feel this way? Probably not. The poll was specifically designed to generate the results the think tank wanted. It’s a ‘push poll.’

First, let’s discuss why this poll is a push poll. It starts by priming respondents with questions about the national debt and the size of Florida’s existing Medicaid budget.

Then it gives an inaccurate description of the terms of the expansion. Poll respondents were told that Medicaid currently covers people earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty line. That’s not true: In Florida, the limit for adults is 56 percent of FPL, and you must have dependent children to qualify. Respondents also heard that after three years, the state would be on the hook for “more than 10 percent” of the cost of newly eligible adults. That’s not true, either: The state’s share would be exactly 10 percent.

Finally, instead of asking for a straight yes-or-no answer, the pollster asked if respondents favored Medicaid expansion “even if it results in tax hikes and spending cuts.” This isn’t a poll designed to figure out how Floridians feel about the Medicaid expansion; it’s one designed to get them to say they oppose it, so the organization commissioning the poll can say it’s unpopular.

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