A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Washington Post Poll

The previous entry is parody, of course. It is meant to ridicule the latest Washington Poll which is presented with the following lede:

Filibuster Rule Change Opposed

As the Senate moves toward a major confrontation over judicial appointments, a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Which information they derive from this poll. If you take a little closer look at it, you might begin to suspect that there are some problems here. Start with question 901, for example, waaaaaaaaaaaay down on page 16, where 35% of respondents think of themselves as democrats, 28% think of themselves as republicans, 32% as independents and 5% as some sort of other. So, why exactly is there no mention that this "strong majority of Americans" they polled was skewed 7 percentage points higher for democrats than republicans when recent studies indicate nearly a dead even split between the two parties or a slight edge for republicans?

Next, take a look at the actual question (36, which is after 34, but before 32 for some reason) asked to get the lede: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" Now, maybe it's just me, but I don't see the word filibuster in there. Oddly, too, that while nearly every other question has a range of options (strongly oppose, somewhat oppose, somewhat support, strongly support) this one is a straight oppose or support. The phrasing is nice, too, since it seems to imply that supporting the rules change would somehow rig the game in favor of the republicans and Bush.

Just as a thought exercise, what do you think the split would have been had the question been asked thusly: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it harder for Democrats to subvert the judicial nomination process as it has been implemented since Colonial times?" Or perhaps, "Do you think it is reasonable for a simple majority to be sufficient for judicial confirmation, and should Senate rules be changed to reflect such majority decisions?"

One final criticism of the poll (there are others, but heck, I'm getting sick of typing). Check out question 13: "Who [shouldn't it be whom?] do you blame for the recent rise in oil and gasoline prices - (other oil-producing countries) , (U.S. oil companies), or (the Bush administration)?" That's it. Those are your choices. Increased demand from China, India and other countries is not an option. Wasteful use of gasoline in tanklike SUV's and hemi-powered trucks is not an option. It's either OPAC's fault, Exxon's fault, or Bush's fault. No need to look any further or any deeper than that.

If there isn't bias in the media, than there's a bunch of morons in the media. Quite probably there are a bunch of biased morons in the media. Any way you slice it, it's pretty pathetic in my opinion.


Nick, you are turning into Ricky Martin, i.e. you need another song.
We get it; the media is biased. Complain about something else already.
No dumb poll in the Washington Post is going to change anything. Can we please move on, already?
Nits. I see a nit or two:

First off, the (supposed) skew in that poll is not 7%. First, you remove the 5% of other (which is usually an unintelligible or unreadable response) leaving 95%. Now you can approach the reaminder two ways: split it three ways (which is what you seem to be suggesting, since your complaint seems to be based around the poll showing fewer Republicans than Democrats). So each of the Repubs, Democrats, and INdependents should be 31.67%. Thus At 35% and 25%, the sampling would be 3.33 % off, which is less than half of what you were claiming, and approximately the MOE of the poll.

But moreover, I would dispute the assertion that the sample is misrepresentative at all. If there are more people who self-identify as Democrats than Republicans, they would show up in greater numbers in a poll. And from what I understand, pollsters use the self identifcation questions to make corrective factors based on knowledge obtained through the years of performing these polls.

Third, I don't see why the phrasing of the question is wrong; I don't see the bias in the way it was phrased, although I also don't object to including the word filibuster. Although the poll was commissioned by ABC News/ Washington Post, the fieldwork was actually done by an outfit called TNS. Now, I have no knowledge of these guys, but I believe the polling agency does usually have the ability to neutralize the questions prior to taking the poll. It's not like Dan Rather is out there hitting people over the head with stick shouting WRONG! WRONG! whenever they don't give the supposed 'liberal' answer.

And....lastly. I am going to defend the wording of the question in question. Removing the filibuster at this time would, in fact, make it easier for Republicans to approve Bush's nominees. That is an accurate representation of the situation, and is, IMHO, the reason for the looming battle over the filibuster. However, you rephrasing of the question as a 'subversion of the judicial nomination process is heavily biased. The filibuster has been a part of the Senate procedure, for good or ill, for something like 200 years. Somehow, the Union has managed to hobble along with this supposed subversion quite ably.

Aaaannnd. Gotta go, but: There are several polls Here:


That show much the same result. Similar questions, different wording, and of course a range of results, but all in keeping with the main thrust of the article you take issue with.
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