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Smart Science Thursday

August 20, 2009 By: Category: Politics

Can we get some more science in here, please? Thanks.

Can we get some more science in here, please? Thanks.

Polls are the best. I love how smart and scientific they are, all the time. To wit:

More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to have a “choice” between a government-run health care insurance option and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.

A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June.

But the numbers tell another story, as well.

Earlier in the week, after pollsters for NBC dropped the word “choice” from their question on a public option, they found that only 43 percent of the public were in favor of “creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies.”

That’s great. So the information we have about people’s support of a public option can change by 30 points depending on how many words are in the question. Science!

To be fair, that second choice sounds awfully complicated. I probably wouldn’t have voted for it, either, and I think the entire health insurance industry should be abolished.

1 Comments to “Smart Science Thursday”


  1. The effect of wording on polling is fascinating. I mean, sure, it’s entirely possible that the only difference was the day or the pollster or the sample they were polling… but with a difference that big, there’s a good chance that word “choice” influenced the results.

    I really wish “independent” pollsters (news organizations and the like) would more-often ask the same question in multiple ways when they do their polls, so we could sort out what people really think better.

    BTW, I know a lot of people think polls are completely useless, but I think there’s information to be gleaned through them, if people would just conduct them well.

    Also BTW, thanks for covering something sciencey this week, since I didn’t. :)

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