Which came first? The conclusion or the poll?

Polls are like statistics in that they are highly subject to interpretation and highly vulnerable to manipulation. I have very little trust in polls, less trust in political polls and even less trust in media political polls. Additionally I will rarely waste my valuable time reading a poll or an article citing a poll unless the complete poll is available including who did it, when, and who payed for it.

So when Sam Taylor, journalist and newbie blogger posted Washington voters don’t like Bush on the new Herald Blog I was initially taken aback and after reading a portion of a poll without a link to the actual poll I was frankly appalled. But then I thought to myself that maybe this is just his opinion. After all it a blog. If you read his post, you will see that he did correct his link, but I am still left with his post title Washington voters don’t like Bush. So was this a conclusion he reached after reading the poll? Or was it premise stated before reading the poll and then supported through special interpretation of the poll results.

Before I get much further down the road, here is a the link to the poll in question, a link to the Herald blog, a great coffee shop that has nothing to do with anything here and an ‘atta boy for Sam Taylor for having the guts to write his opinion. I’m sure it is part of his job, but he could have taken the easy way out and wrote something non-controversial. Hey wait a minute! This is Bellingham, slamming conservatives is a way of life. Slamming conservatives is non-controversial.

Well anyway for fun this morning, I thought I would explore a few manipulative techniques on the same poll that Sam interpreted as Washington voters don’t like Bush.

Technique: Cherry pick

Headline – Voters back President Bush

Washington voters back President’s war on terror, while our nation’s Democratic Party congress who opposes the President, receives dismal ratings.

reference poll questions 6, 9, & 13

Technique: Exploit the negative

Headline – Washington state voters fed up with the Democratic Party.

Less than half the voters approve of Governor Gregoire’s job performance and barely half the voters approve of Democrats Cantwell and Murrays job performance. Couple a 49% disapproval rating for our Democrat run state legislature with a whopping 69% disapproval rating for our nations Democratic Party congress and I’d say that Washington voters are fast becoming fed up with the Democratic Party.

reference poll questions 1, 2, 11, 12, & 13

Ransom note technique – Like cutting words out of magazines and piecing them together in what ever order says what you want them to say.

Headline – Washington: the next Red state

Most Washington voters strongly disapprove of the Democrat held congress who stands in opposition to our elected President. And despite being known as a Democratic party stronghold state, almost half of the Washington voters approve of Republican President Bush’s handling of the war on terror and overwhelmingly would like to see us leave Iraq within the next 6 months.

reference poll questions 6, 10, & 13

I’ll grant that I don’t have a talent for these techniques nor the time and desire to get better, but I think you get the picture. We need to consider the motivation of the writer who uses polls and yes, be distrustful of authors and articles that don’t link to the polls they are citing.

And if you are a writer, for the sake of your integrity, draw your conclusion after you read the poll, not before.