Bill Harlan has a piece on Page 1 of the local section of the Rapid City Journal today entitled "Is this a ‘push poll’ or a ‘message test’?" (I couldn't find it online).
It's about the two "dueling polls" released Thursday by Planned Parenthood and the South Dakota pro-life community.
Harlan tries to point out that there's a difference between a good poll and a bad one, between "push polling" and "testing your message."
He includes the verbiage of the two primary questions from both surveys. Take a look at the two questions and ask yourself: which one more strongly tells the respondent what the "right answer" should be?
Here is the question from the pro-abortion survey:
“All South Dakotans want to reduce the number of abortions, but outlawing abortion is not the answer. We can solve this problem together, without another nasty, divisive campaign. To achieve this, we must work together to address the problem at the root of the issue — preventing unintended pregnancies. South Dakota needs to come together as one (sic) to support better sex education to avoid becoming pregnant, abstinence programs, and increased access to family planning counseling, birth control and other contraception.”
After reading the statement (and checking to see if the respondent was still awake), pollsters asked, “Now, please tell me, do you favor or oppose this approach?”
Here you have a poll question that, rather boldly, tells the respondent--before the question is even asked--what the "right" answer is. It tells the person being questioned that, "Hey, that campaign in 2006, boy it sure was nasty, wasn't it? Boy, that sure did divide us and create a whole lot of bad feelings, didn't it? After all, all reasonable people know that banning abortion isn't the right answer, don't they? We sure don't want to go through that awful thing again, do we. Oh, by the way, do you favor or oppose this better, nicer, smarter approach (as opposed to going through this nasty, divisive thing again)?"
And this is a remotely objective question that doesn't involve "pushing" the respondent toward a certain answer? As I said a few days ago, go pull my other leg, now.
Now I agree that there was a certain element of viewpoint in each of the two polls, but let's look at the pro-life survey question and see if you find any difference.
On the other side, the anti-abortion poll asked:
“Should abortion, if it is being used solely as birth control, be allowed in South Dakota?”
The point of view here is subtle but unmistakable. Have you ever met anyone who was for abortion “solely as birth control”?
Well, if you've ever met someone who has had an abortion, then chances are that, yes, you've met someone who had an abortion solely as birth control, because the 2005 South Dakota abortion statistics show that 79.5% of the women who obtained abortions that year said they did so because they "did not want the child."
Now, for those of you who need be led all the way to the water's edge, why do we use birth control? Right, because we "do not want a child." Ergo, 79.5% of abortions in 2005 were done as retroactive birth control.
In fact, only 1.1% (9 out of our entire state) were for rape/incest, only 2.7% of abortions that year were done to prevent “serious health damage,” and zero were listed to save the life of the mother.
While I might be charitable and grant that there is some point of view in the pro-life survey question, it is a point of view based on a statistical and scientific fact.
Harlan's efforts to play the moral equivalency card here between these two surveys is not only not surprising, it's pretty weak.