Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Problem with the Gallup Poll Pro-life and pro-choice, by Mark Mellman:

Obtaining meaningful poll results requires asking meaningful questions. It seems obvious, but too often this basic rule is observed in the breech.

Typically, after some useless result escapes into the ether, reporters and interest groups proceed to spin some new theory of public opinion based on faulty analysis of a meaningless question.

Last week’s Gallup poll on abortion followed this oft-repeated pattern. Gallup confined itself to reporting the accurate, if misleading, result — “51 percent of Americans call[ing] themselves ‘pro-life’ on the issue of abortion and 42 percent ‘pro-choice.’ This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.”

A Wall Street Journal blog twisted the result to suggest a substantive interpretation not in evidence — “A majority of Americans now say they oppose abortion rights, according to a Gallup poll released today.” Leave it to those who want to make all abortions illegal to move way beyond the facts, citing the poll results as proof the anti-abortion cause “is a vibrant, growing, youthful movement.”

What did these Gallup results actually reveal about American public opinion? Damn little.

Abortion, In the Media, Public Opinion | Permalink

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