Today in Misleading Polls


The day is young, but I think we already have a winner in the least useful poll category. The latest from the ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that most people are in favor of the sequester but opposed to its specific cuts in the military.

Well, of course they are. But phrasing it this way is deeply misleading. People are always in favor of “budget cuts,” and they’re always opposed to cuts in actual programs when they’re mentioned by name. This poll is deliberately phrased to make it seem as if the public supports domestic cuts but not military cuts, and that simply isn’t true. The second question could have been about Social Security or road building or the FBI or education or anything else, and it would have gotten about 60 percent opposed. This has been true for approximately as long as polls have been conducted.

The ABC News report that passes along these poll results makes a teensy little nod to this well-known fact at the tail end of the story, noting that “support for budget cuts in general may be easier to express than support for cuts in particular programs.” This is about as opaque a reference as you could imagine. What’s the point of all this? It’s so deliberately deceptive that it’s hard to make sense of.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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