The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter II:
Discusses the framing of Questions and
difficulties with Interviewers: Bias and
Cheating.

ALTHOUGH THE pollsters use great care in selecting and phrasing their questions, they have sometimes been charged with "loading" them. That could happen, but the danger that it will seems remote. Any polling organization that is a commercial enterprise (and others too) will use every effort to frame questions so that they are not tendentious. Let a pollster once be found to have loaded a question deliberately, and he would probably have to go out of business. Hence pretesting—experiments with different wordings in order to determine the one that is most neutral—and the "split ballot" technique—a question asked in two different forms so that the variations in the replies can be studied.

On a University of Chicago Round Table several years ago William Benton, an experienced advertising man, then one of the University's vice presidents and later Assistant Secretary of State, said that he would like to see a Gallup poll on this question:

"Do you favor convoys at the risk of 50,000 filled coffins, 100,000 filled coffins, 2,000,000 filled coffins, 5,000,000 filled coffins?"
Manifestly Mr. Benton was not in favor of convoying.

-109-

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