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March 24, 2005

More Schiavo Polling

Okay, I'm a data dweeb, I know...

CBS has a new poll out this evening on Terri Schiavo and related issues (HT: Mystery Pollster). Put simply, the poll roughly mirrors the ABC news poll that was widely denounced as a Push Poll. The ABC News poll was not a Push Poll and I don't think the CBS one was either. However, as I wrote in comments on MPs blog, I noticed something curious about a sequence of questions in the CBS poll.

First, you have to read the actual questions asked by CBS as these are not listed in their entirety in the news account (MP has the link to the PDF). Note the progression of questions 8, 9, 10, and 13. Questions 8-10 do not mention Terri, but Question 13 does. Questions 8 and 9 mention "feeding tube" and avoid use of the term "life support," but notice these phrases: Q8: "doctors say brain activity has stopped" and Q9: "in a coma with no brain activity."

Questions 8 and 9 clearly do not describe Terri's condition as she is NOT brain dead. She is severely brain damaged and large portions of her brain have atrophied, but the phrases "brain activity has stopped" and "no brain activity" are not accurate in Terri's case. I suggest that this is important because of the survey's question progression.

Nowhere in the survey is it explained that "persistent vegetative state" does not mean that "brain activity has stopped" or that the patient has "no brain activity." In other words, the questions leading up to the questions specifically about Terri's case seem to be hinting that Terri is brain dead when she clearly is not.

I still don't think these nuances would change public opinion drastically, but it sure seems odd to me that the survey would be written this way. Also, when the results of Q8 and Q9 were reported in the CBS news story, they referred to "coma" and "vegetative state" but made no mention of the reference to the fact that their questions included the qualifier of "no brain activity."

In my comment on his blog, I asked Mark Blumenthal to comment about the sequence of questions in the survey. Maybe there is a simple explanation here. I am a bit tired as the flu went through every member of my family this week. I haven't had much sleep. Maybe I'm reading into this too much.

Posted by Rick at March 24, 2005 02:23 AM

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I was about to comment on the latest polls, but Rick at Stones Cry Out has done the heavy lifting. . . . [These polls are] Mischief if you ask me. [Read More]

Tracked on March 24, 2005 05:42 AM