Image by ^Berd via FlickrSomeone called me yesterday to ask my advice on a questionnaire they planned to distribute at a large event later this week. As I thought about the difficulty of designing clear objective questions I remembered that I had a note to myself to blog about this post by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.
Nate describes the essential ingredients of a good poll. He goes on to say that the health care debate is suffering from poorly designed polling questions. I recommend you read the whole post, but here's the difference a well designed public option question can make.
FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: How to Poll on the Public Option: "So, who gets it right?
Regrettably, almost all of the polls on the public option succumb to one or more of these sins. However, there are two exceptions. One is the Quinnipiac poll, which asks:
Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?
This is a perfect question. It makes clear that the public option is an insurance program, rather than a program to provide health care services. It uses the less ambiguous phrase 'government' rather than the more ambiguous phrase 'public'. It makes clear that the public option is a choice. It avoids leading the respondent by comparing the public option to Medicare. And it asks in unambiguous terms whether the respondent supports or opposes the proposal.
62 percent of people support the public option in Quinnipiac's August 5th poll, versus 32 percent opposed."