Polls Apart: A Report from the Kettering Foundation

Polls Apart: A Report from the Kettering Foundation

Polls Apart: A Report from the Kettering Foundation

Polls Apart: A Report from the Kettering Foundation

Excerpt

In May, 1979, an NBC News/Associated Press public opinion poll reported that 26 percent of the American public favored the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) and 7 percent opposed it. The remaining twothirds of the public, the poll found, did not consider themselves sufficiently informed to have a clear opinion.

Just three days later, an ABC News poll, conducted in the same period by Louis Harris & Associates, Inc., showed 72 percent of the public in favor of the treaty and 18 percent opposed. Only 10 percent in the Harris study were classified in the "don't know" category.

Thus two highly respected polling organizations-- organizations with established reputations for determining the state of public opinion within three to five percentage points--differed by approximately 50 percentage points in their descriptions of public opinion on SALT II.

Although divergences of this magnitude are not typical, differences of more than five percentage points were common occurrences in polls on SALT II and other significant foreign policy issues during the past decade, including the Vietnam War, the Middle East, support for the United Nations, the Panama Canal Treaty, and U.S.- Soviet relations. The prevalence of such inconsistencies accounts, in one sense, for the double entendre of our title, Polls Apart.

On the pages that follow, we argue that the persistence . . .

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