It appears that we have gone from 66% approval of the NSA program to 51% opposition in a scant 48 hours! I understand that things happen, other information is revealed, etc when it comes to this kind of thing but I haven’t read or heard anything NEW about the NSA program since December when the New York Crimes first ran the story.
Since the devil is in the details, let’s have a look at these two polls.
The USA Today poll opens with the following:
First, thinking about how the government is dealing with the issue of terrorism,
1. Do you think the Bush administration has gone too far, has been about right, or has not gone far enough in restricting peopleâ€™s civil liberties in order to fight terrorism]?
Let’s see how the WaPo poll handled the same question:
As it conducts the war on terrorism, do you think the United States government is or is not doing enough to protect the rights of American citizens?
How about that!? WaPo is actually FAIR in the way the ask the question! AMAZING! USA Today…not so much.
Now, moving along with questions directly related to the latest bit of news on the Pen registers. USA Today asks:
Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?
It’s been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
Well ain’t that just a kick in the pants!? In this question, USA Today asks the respondent to rely on what they have heard while WaPo recaps the original USA Today story. I’m no pollster so the fact that I see the two questions as equal may just mean I’m missing something here. I would suggest that USA Today is using “ethical restraint” but that implication would be false on it’s face now wouldn’t it?
USA Today has another question that WaPo didn’t address. I love this one:
Is that mainly because you do not think the program seriously violates Americansâ€™ civil liberties, (or is it mainly because) you think investigating terrorism is the more important goal, even if it violates some Americansâ€™ civil liberties?
hehe. This is priceless. Relying on the answer to the previous question, the respondent is asked to explain their answer. You are either FOR violating civil liberties or against it.
WaPo hits close to this question with:
What do you think is more important right now – (for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy); or (for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats)?
but nothing quite as stark as the USA Today question.
For either paper to perform even handed polling is probably a pipe dream but in this case WaPo has came a hellova lot closer than USA Today. You want another kick in the pants? Wouldn’t it be interesting to find that the two fishwraps were in cahoots? One runs a poll that, some will say, is slanted toward the Chimpy McBushitler camp while the other runs a poll that is slanted toward the Anti-America First crowd. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
Tomorrow we will be hearing about the USA Today poll and the talking heads will be ranting about how quickly the national conscience has changed on the NSA thingy. I would bet that Britt Hume will address the questions but that will probably be the only place in the legacy media that gets into the nuts and bolts of the poll.
Oh but wait! The last sentence of the USA Today poll details says:
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Well, fancy that. Do you guys really think that QUESTION WORDING could actually introduce ERROR OR BIAS INTO THE FINDINGS OF PUBLIC OPINION POLLS?!?!?! You bone heads.