ABC News' The Numbers blog recently put up a post that deconstructs several attempts at polling the people on the bailout package currently under consideration.
Here's what ABC's self-described "poobah of polling" Gary Langer had to say about their own network poll:
The data point I like best - don't be surprised - is from our own ABC News poll Nov. 23, in which we found 57 percent of Americans opposed to $25 billion in loans for the Big Three, just 35 percent in favor. Strong opponents outnumbered strong supporters by 2-1.
He *likes* this data point because he thinks the question they asked is unbiased. Here it is.
ABC News, 11/23: The big three automakers in the United States have asked for a 25 billion dollar loan from the government. Some people say (it's a bailout those companies don't deserve, and that they'd be better off reorganizing under bankruptcy laws). Other people say (it's necessary to protect auto workers and save a key part of the U.S. economy). On balance, do you support or oppose this plan? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
As a writer, certain parts of the verbiage simply leaps off the page. For instance, the use of "some people say" (a squirrely pseudojournalistic construction made famous by When Fox Attacks) . Or, "a bailout those companies don't deserve" -- coming on the tail end of banking bailouts of jaw-dropping proportion, is it any wonder that the public has bailout fatigue? (And what exactly is a bailout anyway? Is it buying bad debt, or an equity infusion, or is a bridge loan a "bailout" too? Does it depend on the loan terms?)
Finally, "it's necessary to protect auto workers" is a troublesome phrase, for a number of different reasons, and I can think of at least a couple of demographic constituencies that would have their answers determined by those six words alone.
Langer also cites a GM poll which states that 55% of respondents are in favor of the loan. He then describes the various ways that he thinks the poll is dishonest, which is fine except he doesn't display an ounce of the same awareness of subjectivity when talking about his own poll.
Here's a poll question for you, Mr. Langer: How much of your "polling poobah" salary was paid by big three advertising last year? Want a nice pay cut for Christmas? (Or a new job as assistant data specialist?)
Here's what I'd like to see polled:
I'm wondering how much public opinion, in percentage terms, was sacrificed by the (insert choice adjective here) decision to all fly separate corporate jets down to Washington? Note: I'm not even saying they shouldn't have corporate jets -- hell, Alan Mulally just came from Boeing a few years ago -- but I am saying is that move will go down in history (and in MBA textbooks) as the sort of clueless corporate maneuver that shows just how insulated these guys are from reality on a daily basis. (Is there such a thing as managing stupidity risk in the MBA curriculum? There should be.)
Secondly, I'm wondering how the numbers would look if they asked the American people this question: "Do you support the US auto industry getting an assistance package that is 1/50th the size of the banking industry bailout?"