May 26, 2006
MP on NSA Polls on CBS Public Eye
Today I accepted an invitation to contribute to the "Outside Voices" feature on the CBS News blog "Public Eye." My post -- about lessons learned from the conflicting NSA telephone records polls -- is now up. Here's my bottom line:
The lesson we could all stand to learn here is that on issues of public policy no single question provides a precise, “scientific” measure of the truth. The most accurate read of public opinion usually comes from comparing the sometimes conflicting results of many different questions on many different polls and understanding the reasons for those differences.
Check it out. You might want to click thru just to see the non-mysterious photo.
I liked your discussion on the Public Eye blog, but I am not so sure about your final example based on Q17 and Q18 of the CBS News poll. I assume it is supposed to be an example of one question emphasizing the rationale of investigating terrorism and one question emphasizing the invasion of privacy, but where the underlying policies are substantially the same in both questions. Yet in Q17 the policy is the blanket monitoring of all Americans “on a regular basis.” In Q18, however, the policy is the monitoring of particular people of whom the government is suspicious. Although the first 27 words are the same in both questions, the substantive difference between these two policies is huge. One involves particularized suspicion. The other does not. Hence, this example is arguably a better one in favor of “underlying true attitudes” explaining the different results than conflicting Zaller-esque “considerations” (or a “conflicting mosaic of more general attitudes”). Nevertheless, I agree with your general argument.
Posted by: William Ford | May 26, 2006 12:12:49 PM
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