Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PPP's clown question

A lot of people want to trash PPP as a totally partisan polling outfit skewing their questions and results to help the Democrats. I've held off from that because I haven't done a study of their record and the internals of the polls. I think there is a bit too much on the Republican side of condemning polls that we don't like. Some polls are obviously skewed, but we have to know more before we criticize and assume that, just because an outfit is a Democratic outfit that they're biasing all their polls.

Well, that is what I used to think about PPP, but now I've been polled by them and I'm ticked off and have great skepticism about their ability to separate their political leanings from their supposedly nonpartisan polling.

I was polled on Sunday by PPP about politics in NC and, for the last question, they asked "Who was more responsible for killing Osama bin Laden, Obama or Romney?" I was just flummoxed. I couldn't figure out what it was doing in a poll of standard questions on whom I was going to vote for or if I approved or disapproved of certain politicians. Well, now it's clear what the purpose of the goofy question was - to generate stats so they could make fun of Republicans. Well, I'll confess - I answered "not sure." That wasn't because I wasn't sure but it was my way of registering how ticked off the question made me. As I tell my students, one problem that we can't account for in polling is that people lied. So I lied. Now my answer is part of a Comedy Central gag.
There are lots of ways for Obamabots to answer the question "Are you better off than you were fours years ago?" Some note that Jersey Shore is dead and Arrested Development is alive. Others point to the improving employment picture. Joe Biden puts it most piquantly: "Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." But who deserves credit for these events?

According to a Public Policy Polls survey of Ohio voters, 38% of Ohio Republicans say Barack Obama is most responsible for the bin Laden's death, 15% say Romney, and 47% were unsure. The results were similar in North Carolina, where 29% of Republicans said Obama deserves more credit, versus 15% Romney and 56% unsure.

There's not much in Romney's foreign policy that can be credited for bin Laden's demise, but maybe his anti-porn stance is what drove the al Queda mastermind into the path of a Navy SEAL's bullet. A connoisseur of smut, what else could bin Laden do when confronted with Romney's plan to take away his Internet access to Weapons of Ass Destruction IV?

It's also possible that these majorities of Republican voters who refuse to credit Obama with the Bin Laden's killing aren't really answering the question that's being put to them, just as many Republicans translate questions about Obama's faith into questions about how much they hate the president. For many voters, telling a pollster that President Obama is a Muslim who doesn't deserve credit for the country's most visible recent military achievement is just another way of saying that Obama sucks.
But that can't be every voter. Somewhere in Ohio or North Carolina, there's a guy who thinks SEAL Team Six arrived in Pakistan's on Romney's charter plane and shot bin Laden using equipment financed by Romney's off-shore accounts. And that guy's vote counts just as much as yours.
Ha ha. There is another option - the respondent was ticked off by such a clown question and refused to give the answer they obviously were seeking. Little did I realize that they were actually seeking wrong answers so they could make fun of Republicans.

At the time I tweeted that it was a kind of push poll question. I was thinking that the goal was maybe to leave the person being polled with a memory of Obama's main achievement. I couldn't think of any other purpose. I guess I just wasn't cynical enough to realize that PPP was serving to generate material for Comedy Central.

Notice that PPP didn't pair that question set up to make Republicans look stupid with some question to make Democrats look stupid. They could have asked a Truther question to see how many Democrats think Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11 or some other similarly set-up question or some bigoted question about Mormons. I'm sure that would get a lot of "funny" answers from Democrats that Comedy Central could laugh at. Instead, PPP just wanted to generate a gag to make Republicans look dumb.

This is not a legitimate way to conduct what is supposed to be a straight poll. They took a standard poll and inserted a question the sole goal of which was to generate an anti-Republican talking point. I think it says something about the whole operation and I'm done giving them the benefit of the doubt.