About this Blog
About The Author
Email Me

RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

« Why Is the White House Courting Olympia Snowe? | HorseRaceBlog Home Page | The Lesson of NY-23 »

The Public Option in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll

Last week I argued that question wording might be influencing polling outcomes on the public option - generally skewing the results closer to the Democratic side of the ledger because of contested buzzwords like "choice," "competition," and "option."

I noted at the time that the best way to test this theory was via an apples-to-apples scenario in which we can hold the pollster, the methodology, and the time of the poll constant. That's why I thought the Rasmussen results were significant: Rasmussen changed the wording of questions on the public option and found markedly different results.

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted by Hart/McInturff, gives us another such opportunity. They split their sample into two groups (A and B), and ask each subsample a different version of a public option question.

Here's the first version, asked of subsample A.

NBC:WSJ 1.jpg

This is your typically tilted question. The idea of a "choice" is referenced - again, Republicans would hotly dispute this. In this specific wording, respondents are asked how they feel about "(giving) people a choice," forcing opponents of the public option to play the part of Ebenezer Scrooge. Unsurprisingly, this wording produces some good results for public option advocates. Another potential factor driving these results: opponents of the public option might not have a category to register their opposition here. Can they say "not at all important?" Perhaps, but does that accurately reflect their views? A lot of opponents of the public option think it is quite an important issue.

Here's the second version of the public option question, asked of subsample B.

NBC:WSJ 2.jpg

This one is less tilted to the Democratic side, although Republicans would still dispute the idea that a health care marketplace with a public option will actually generate competition. Still, the removal of the highly loaded phrase "(giving) people a choice" makes this less tilted overall - also, this time people have an opportunity to register support or opposition. And notice the big change. A majority of respondents are either uncertain or in opposition.

So, this is another apples-to-apples comparison. As with Rasmussen, NBC/WSJ finds that changes in question wording on the public option can produce big changes in the poll results.

-Jay Cost