Another awful Rasmussen poll

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

As usual, it's not the results that necessarily rankle, it's the god-awful polling questions that Rasmussen comes up with.

Here's the latest, from a batch of media-related queries. The problem is the polling questions are so poorly worded that the Rasmussen results, in the end, tell us almost nothing about how Americans feel about the press. At least not anything interesting about how they feel about the press.

From Rasmussen [emphasis added]:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of likely U.S. voters believe the news media have too much power and influence over government decisions, up six points from October. Just eight percent (8%) think the media have too little power and influence, and 19% think their level of power is about right.

But what does that mean? i.e. If a telephone pollster called my house and read off a script asking me if I thought the media had too much power and influence over government decisions, my immediate reaction would be, "What does that mean?" I've read the question innumerable times now, and I still don't have the faintest idea of what the question is about or what kind of information it's trying to obtain from voters.

Does it mean that the media literally dictate what the government does? ("Build this road! Pass this bill!") Does it mean corporately owned media are too closely aligned with governmental interests? Does it mean that government officials rely on the media to gather information, and the media therefore have influence over decisions? Although even there, I'm still not clear how the media would "have power" over "government decisions." And are we talking about the news media or all media?

And good Lord, what are "government decisions"? Is that just an incredibly clumsy phrase for "policy" or "legislation"? Or something. And which government? Town hall? Congress? The Pentagon, which, after all, is part of the "government"?

I don't know why Rasmussen consistently goes out into the field with poorly worded questions that make no sense. I do have a hunch, though: Rasmussen does it in order to garner a big reaction number (67 percent!) that conservatives can then spin online to mean whatever they want it to mean.

So in that narrow regard, this poll is a success. In terms of public polling, though, it seems rather pointless.

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