For reasons completely beyond me, I’m on the Republican National Committee’s junk mail list. This morning, I received the strangely bad survey they’ve been taking to try to figue out what they’re doing wrong and what they can do to fix it.
Partisan feelings aside (for the moment), this isn’t a horrible idea; there’s nothing wrong with trying to survey your membership, or failing that, survey people you’ve misidentified as your membership (my hunch is that this dates back to my signing up for McCain’s email list back in 2004 when we all thought he was going to switch parties, but who knows). The problem, of course, is simply that the execution is possibly among the worst I’ve seen. You’d think they’d have asked a Republican pollster to come up with a professionally-written instrument, but thankfully, they didn’t: let’s make fun of it.
Random capitalization aside (more on that shortly), what the heck is up with the “Need to Lead in Congress” choice? If they’re trying to list perceived weaknesses, wouldn’t it need to be constructed differently, like “failure to lead in Congress,” or “lack of leadership in Congress,” or other words to that effect? “Standing up for Principles” isn’t much better — as worded, it’s impossible to tell if the poll is suggesting that Republicans are weak as a party because they stand up for their principles (which aren’t popular enough to help them win elextions) or if they’re saying Republicans are weak as a party because they don’t stand up for their principles enough. Either interepetation could make sense, but the pollster apparently wants us to figure it out for ourselves.
Also, take a look at the preceeding question, which asked what the party’s biggest strengths were:
I’m certain this would be an unpopular view at GOP Headquarters, but couldn’t the case be made that every single one of those items should also be in the weakness box? Isn’t it possible there are some actual Republicans who believe the party’s focus on “values” issues like gay marriage turned off moderate voters who might have been receptive to a message focused solely on fiscal responsibility?
I don’t even know where to begin with this mess, so let’s just leave it here as an example of what a biased poll question looks like.
Why are Those Things Capitalized In That Way?
Two separate problems here, and they’re both fairly common. First, obviously, the “scare quotes,” the use of “wasteful” to modify “government spending,” and the hilarious “Pelosi-Reid Democrats” label — is that supposed to be like “Reagan Democrats” or something? Who identifies with a Speaker of the House/Senate Majority Leader enough that it works as a label? Whatever. The other problem here is very common, and I see it all the time, and I think most people miss it: they’re setting up a question where the respondent has to choose a positive answer choice — “yes,” in this example — if they want to vote for a negative answer choice, “oppose.” This creates just enough of a moment of confusion in the respondent’s mind that it should be avoided, especially because there’s nearly ever a need for it. “Should Republicans in Congress support or oppose the new blah blah blah,” with “support” and “oppose” as the two answer choices — that’s much simpler and avoids that dangerous construction entirely.
This just amuses me — shouldn’t it be “instead of you and your doctor and the non-doctors who make the decisions at your insurance company?”
This was my favorite part, though. (It’s actually the first item in the survey, but I saved it for last.) The email address field was pre filled-in, by the way, and my email address was also in the survey’s URL. That’s one way to make sure no one fills in the “other” blanks with anything you don’t want to hear, I guess.