Today I had the pleasure of being asked to take part in a political "survey". I sometimes wonder where these numbers come from. Now I have a little better insight. Taking this survey was actually kind of fun. I was tempted to lecture the pollster on how leading the questions were (and how misleading the results would be). But, I realized he was just a guy doing his job.
The poll taker asked me if I'd mind answering a few questions. They started off innocent enough. Do you vote? How many times have you voted in the last few elections? Do you generally vote Democrat or Republican? (with the standard always, sometimes, most of the time, never type options). Just as I was thinking this was a real "scientific" survey, the bias came out and I realized the pollster was working for the McCain campaign and/or the Republicans. One of the questions was something to the effect of "How upset are you the Democrats are blocking drilling for domestic oil?" (on a scale of 1-10). Another question was "How concerned are you about Barack Obama's lack of experience?". They asked me how I felt about a proposed bill to force employers with more than 25 workers and whose workers were working more than 30 hours a week to give those employees 7 days paid sick time off. I said I would be in favor of it. Then, they asked me to rate how more information about the bill would effect me. Would it make me more or less likely to support the bill? Well, the "information" they gave was things like it would cause employers to not located new businesses in Ohio (Is that a proven fact?); it would cause Ohio workers to have less benefits and lower wages (Again, is that a proven fact?) and lastly that Ohio would be the only state to have such a law (and we all know Ohio can't be a leader on something like labor laws). The poll taker seemed taken aback when I said none of those things (with would make me less likely to support it. Who in their right mind wouldn't be less likely after hearing those "facts"? Well, me. The "facts" are disputable, at least. The fact that Ohio would be the only state with such a law does give me pause and makes me want to look into it more deeply. But, that wasn't one of the choices. Neither was "I don't believe your 'facts'".
When he asked me questions about Barack Obama if I rated Obama highly on a particular positive trait, he'd say "And would you rate John McCain the same?" instead of saying "And how would you rate John McCain?", forcing me to correct him if I would not rate McCain the same. I'd be curious to know if he would have phrased the question the same way had I rated Obama lower. As a sales professional for over 25 years and as a student of pop psychology, I know the difference between a question to get at the truth and a question designed to force someone into a certain response. Of course I have no idea whether this will be presented as an independent poll, or how and where these numbers will be used. But, I have no doubt in my mind that the survey results are going to strongly favor McCain and the Republicans simply because of the way the survey was conducted.