Politics Magazine

Some Polls Mislead By Asking The Wrong Question

Posted on the 12 February 2015 by Jobsanger
Some Polls Mislead By Asking The Wrong Question
The above image is from a recently released Gallup Poll (done between January 5th and 8th of a random national sample of 804 adults, with a 4 point margin of error). It was accompanied by a headline that read -- "Fewest Americans Satisfied With Abortion Policies Since 2001".
I was very disappointed in the Gallup Poll over this. Their headline and chart make it sound like most Americans are against Roe vs. Wade (the current American policy, which guarantees the right of a woman to choose in the first trimester) -- and that is simply not true. Polls have repeatedly shown for many years that a significant majority of Americans support Roe vs. Wade, and still do.
Gallup asked the wrong question in this survey, and because of that they have obfuscated the truth. The truth is that most Americans do NOT want Roe vs. Wade overturned, and do NOT want more restrictions on a woman's right to choose whether she wants an abortion or not.
To their credit, Gallup finally did get around to asking the right question toward the bottom of their press release -- asking the respondents whether they wanted more restrictions on abortions, less restrictions on abortions, or the status quo. As the chart below shows, it is only a small minority that wants more restrictions on a woman's right to choose -- and even more Republicans want the status quo or less restrictions than want more restrictions (by a small margin).
I'm not just picking on Gallup. The truth is that a lot of polls are guilty of the same thing -- misleading the public by asking the wrong question. It reminds me of the many polls that have asked -- "Do you support the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?". They almost always get a majority saying they don't like Obamacare, and that gives the impression that a majority would like to see Obamacare repealed -- which has not been true for several years now.
When the right question is asked -- Do you want Congress to repeal Obamacare? -- it becomes clear that only a minority desires that. The majority want the law kept as it is or improved. It turns out that many of those saying they don't like Obamacare are unhappy because they don't think that reform went far enough -- not because they oppose health care reform.
Polls need to be more careful about the questions they ask, because asking the wrong question can do more to hide the truth than to show it.
Some Polls Mislead By Asking The Wrong Question

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