Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Experiences in telephone polls

I took part in a telephone poll last night. Not very far into the poll, I was appalled at how slanted, leading, or nonsensical many of the questions were. First I was asked what I felt the two top issues facing Washington state are. I answered transportation and education, which isn't quite fair as I'm not sure if those are big issues across all of Washington. They're certainly top of the list issues for me, and at least getting some serious attention along the i-5 corridor.

After this I was asked a series of straight-forward questions: Did I feel that the number of lawsuits in Washington was a problem? Did I think the warranty period on new construction should be extended to ten years? Several of the questions asked me if I would favor or oppose legislation based on little more than their telling me the basic premise of the bill ("This legislation would expand the definition of disability, would you favor or oppose?" or "The proposed legislation would redefine who could sue for damages in a wrongful death case, would you favor or oppose?") and several times I objected that I couldn't possible tell whether I favored or opposed based on those questions! Expands the definition of disability to include what? Redefines who can sue for wrongful death...to what, for whom?

After the first step the poll really got "in depth" with a bunch of seriously leading questions that made me think push poll ala the infamous John McCain "Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" push poll from the 2000 elections. Lots of questions like "If you knew that this legislation would increase prices for homebuilders that would be passed on to consumers, cause job loss, and increase lawsuits would you favor or oppose?" and they were increasingly hysterical. I swear, a few times I thought they were going to go all the way with "...and cause the apocalypse!" More than once I asked if there was an option for "we're screwed either way" because either we can't demand accountability from people who are building our faulty homes, causing wrongful deaths or discriminating against us in the workplace, or we get the right to sue and make the people in power live up to their obligations only to have them pass the costs down to us in the form of fees, mandatory "insurance" (always paying in, we should never expect to take out) and other complete BS. Not that I have opinions on some of this stuff or anything... The question about how I would feel if I knew that the proposed legislation would overturn several state supreme court rulings was also nonsense. That's part of the process: the legislature passes a law that they want to accomplish X thing. Cases come up challenging the law, the courts determine that the law does or does not accomplish X. If the court says it accomplishes something other than X and what the legislature wants is X, they're going to enact a new law to try and get X. They might as well have asked "If you knew this legislation would use the democratic process as set forth in the state constitution, would you favor or oppose it?" Nonsense.

Several times I was intentionally contrary with my answers when it was just too obvious what response they were trying to provoke. "If you knew this legislation would bring about the apocalypse, would you favor or oppose?" is such a bullshit question! If I knew it? If it was irrefutably true? I'd oppose, just like they know any sane person would. Of course, I don't "know" that their statement is true and in many cases I believe it's definitely UNtrue. How do you answer something like that?

After nearly 20 minutes on the phone the poll ended by asking me to rank how trustworthy I would find the following sources (including our governor Christine Gregoire, and some Alliance for Fairness and Accountability... not their real name but some equally inane group name I'd never heard before) and did I agree or disagree with several statements like "I oppose frivolous lawsuits." By this time I wasn't bothering to hide the fact that I was laughing out loud at this poll.

Of course the people conducting the poll are just middlemen, handed the poll and questions from a client. I asked who the poll was being conducted for and they couldn't tell me, insisting that they don't know themselves (so they can't bias the answers).


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Anonymous Anonymous Says:

This is why I no longer participate in polls. Polls stopped being about finding out what people think long ago and became a tool for reinforcing a preconceived opinion.

Steve Nicewarner


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