For days, Rachel Maddow (and Ed “Sergeant” Schultz) have been telling us that “a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll says that 91% of the American people” want to raise taxes on millionaires to reduce the deficit.
Is is true? Sort of. That’s the percentage of people who are okay with it of the people they called, in the context they asked the question. In other words, the poll they cite is the perfect example of how to get the answers the pollsters want.
And it starts with the oldest trick in the book– the polling sample.
When you want a more liberal answer, you ask 1000 “adults.” When you want the relevant answer, you ask “Likely voters.”
The poll cited by The True Twit and her sergeant includes about 20% of respondents who did not even bother to vote in the 2008 Presidential Election — the highest turnout in recent memory.
If you didn’t vote for President in 2008, who cares what your opinion is? Rachel does, because you are most likely to be gullible enough to support her positions and fall for her blather.
However, including such people always bumps the positive rating of anything like favoring taxing the rich to pay down the deficit, or react negatively to the blanket statement of “cutting Social Security” without asking for any more context– and certainly not supplying it themselves.
But the most telling statistic was that only 8% of respondents said they were likely to vote in an upcoming Republican Presidential Primary, while 28% said they would vote in a Democrat Presidential Primary.
That’s not even representative of Massachusetts. Not to mention the fact that all the action in the 2012 Primaries is likely to be on the Republican side– unless Obama really steps in it.
Given that demographic from the poll, if I were Barack Obama, I wouldn’t take much comfort in having a positive job performance rating of 48% positive to 46%.
Then there is the “how you ask the question” question.
Let’s check out question 7:
“I’m going to read two statements about the role of government and I’d like to know which one comes closer to your point of view:
Statement A: Government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of people
Statement B: Government is doing too many things left better left to businesses and individuals.
Not loaded or anything… Who could be against solving problems? Heck I think government should solve problems –within the things government should do.
Amazingly, with the sample problems listed above, and the loading of the question, “Government should do more” only prevailed 51% to 46%!
And around 70% of those surveyed said that making public employees pay more for their benefits was “Acceptable.”
Not bad in a sample where about 30% of the people hadn’t heard of the Wisconsin protests…
But here is my favorite, the people were asked if various factions of Congress or the President– Republicans, Democrats, or “Tea Party Supporters” were likely to “Go too far” or “Not go far enough” in addressing the deficit.
See anything missing?
That’s right, the respondent had to volunteer that they thought whoever would get “The Right Balance/About Right.
False choices abound in this poll, and presenting the idea that a surcharge on incomes over a million dollars would actually matter to reducing the deficit in any significant way is one of those. Especially since we are reminded on a nightly basis that the $100 billion the Tea Party candidates what to cut is such a “drop in the bucket.”
But that won’t stop The True Twit and Ed. We will undoubtedly hear this fractured stat all the way through 2012.