I’ve always heard that in polling, how the question is asked can make all the difference. Well, we now have a classic case of this in Virginia, specifically with regard to the abortion clinics issue. Check this out.
1. First, there’s the Quinnipiac Poll, which asked:
The new rules are the product of a new law in Virginia that reclassified abortion clinics as hospital facilities. According to the new regulations, all abortion clinics and physician offices providing abortions would have to meet specific building and safety requirements that until now, have only been required of hospitals; such as 250-square-foot operating rooms and specific ventilation systems. Do you approve or disapprove of this change that would require the state’s abortion clinics to be regulated like hospitals or don’t you know?
The results? 55% approved, 22% disapproved, and 23% didn’t know or didn’t answer. Also of interest, only 25% of Virginians say they’ve “heard or read anything about these additional regulations,” while 74% haven’t heard a thing (I wonder, of those 25%, how many have really focused on this issue).
2. Next, we’ve got the Virginia Bellweather Poll, conducted by Third Eye Strategies. The question is asked much differently:
Earlier this year the state legislature passed a law that required all clinics that provide abortion services to be regulated by the state the same way hospitals are. Supporters of this law say that this will improve the health and safety of women. Opponents of this law say that these clinics are already safe, regulated, and regularly inspected. This law does nothing more than restrict a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion services. Especially since no other doctor’s office that performs invasive medical procedures will be subject to these new regulations. Do you agree more with the supporters or opponents of this law? (If supporters/opponents) Do you strongly agree with the (supporters/opponents) of this law or only somewhat agree
Given that the question was asked very differently, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the results are also much different: 38% support, 44% oppose the law. Also, by a 45%-33% margin, respondents believe that “supporters of this new regulation of abortion services are trying use government regulations to effectively outlaw legal abortion services” rather than “guarantee that all women choosing to have an abortion do so in the safest possible environment.”
Bottom line: these two polls appear to provide strong evidence for the argument that it matters a great deal HOW you ask the questions! In this case, the results are wildly different on an important matter of public policy discussion in Virginia. Yet the media just reports these polls as if they’re hard science (while, on the other hand, NOT reporting hard science – like climatology – as hard science; crazy, huh?).
P.S. For more poll results, including “strong support for increased public transportation spending” and “opposition to uranium mining,” click here.