Monday, August 4, 2008

Post-Kaiser-Harvard Poll

The Washington Post is reporting the results of the Post-Kaiser-Harvard Survey of Low-Wage Workers, which shows that working class voters--even white working class voters--are tilting decidedly in favor of Obama over McCain. Besides the fact that the Post is reporting poll results that are almost a month old, the other thing that struck me as odd about this survey is that it is probably a good example of question-order contamination and economic priming. The first thirty-five questions focused on many different aspects of personal and national economic attitudes, and then the thirty-sixth question asked respondents how they would vote if the election were held today. It's hard to imagine that the emphasis on economic questions throughout the survey did not have an impact on how respondents answered the vote question.

Imagine if the vote question had been preceded by thirty-five questions that focused on terrorism and foreign policy. My guess (I have no data) is that responses to the vote question would have reflected greater weight given to foreign policy attitudes and Obama's margin would have been much narrower.

The upshot is that Obama supporters who were excited by these poll results might want to temper that excitement just a bit. Also, poll consumers should always read the questionnaire.

Update: I just saw that Mark Blumenthal has a post at making many of the same points.

1 comment:

tomkraj said...

Good point. Thanks for making it. We can not and should not take these polls at face value.

Along similar lines, nearly every state will remind voters on the ballot that John McCain is a Republican and Barack Obama is a Democrat. Not every poll tells the "potential voter" those facts.