Carol Platt Liebau: A Different Poll Question

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Different Poll Question

Here's one question that pollsters never ask: How much confidence do you have in our results?

And there may be a reason for their reticence on that score. Take two polls, the results of which were run today, presumably in view of the President's speech tonight.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll tells us that "Only 43 percent said they believed the war in Iraq has made Americans safer from terrorism, and 46 percent said it had made the country less safe."

But the ABC News/Washington Post poll reveals that 52 percent believe that "war with Iraq has contributed to the long term security of the United States." Forty-six percent believe that the war has not contributed to America's long term security.

So which is it? Obviously, it's pretty hard for 46% to believe the war had made the country less safe, while 52% contemperaneously are convinced that the war has contributed to American security over the long term. Unless, that is, there are people who believe both that we're no safer from terrorism but nonetheless more secure long-term -- a view that rivals recent Supreme Court jurisprudence for sheer incoherence.

It's just a handy reminder that a lot may depend on what question is asked, or how it is asked . . . or how people interpret it, or a whole host of other factors.


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