Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Don't like the way the poll is going? Just change the question

Ninemsn has a chequered history with its online polls. They are regularly manipulated (I assume by outsiders) to reflect the anti-government position on political questions.

Yesterday's poll questions was: Is John Howard too old to be Prime Minister?

At 9:10 and 9:30 the results were:

The Yes vote represents just under 80% of the No vote.

Clearly, that wasn't the result that ninemsn was looking for so they changed it to: Is John Howard past it as Prime Minister?

At 10:45, 12:04 and 14:19 the results were:

The Yes vote catches up and overtakes the No vote at around 2PM, which allowed ninemsn to include a line in an article referring to the fact that most voters thought he was past it.

Professional pollsters know that the way you ask the question is very important in determining the outcome. Questions are designed to be as neutral as possible unless they're being sponsored by lobby groups or political parties etc.

From the above I deduce that people do not think that John Howard is too old but they do think that he's past it. For Howard, that's an important distinction. He can't do anything about his age but he can demonstrate his vigour and commitment to the job between now and the election.

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