Commonly, interest groups administer push polls to, well, push the views or opinions of respondents in a desired direction. For example (here I am quoting and paraphrasing from Chicago Tribune newspaper columnist, Eric Zorn, 9/28/14) , Democrats for Educational Reform (DFER), a pro-charter schools organization backing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election and trying to keep Chicago Teachers Union president, Karen Lewis, off the ballot, paid for a telephone survey that asked:
1. “The current teachers contract with Chicago Public Schools expires after the school year, and negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools will begin soon. In your opinion, if Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis decides to run for mayor, should she step down as union president to avoid a conflict of interest, or not?”
2. “Do you think Chicago’s full school day, which now gives Chicago students as much learning time as suburban students, should be repealed to pay for teacher raises and pension payments, or not?”
Pause a moment, writes Zorn, to savor the unapologetic slant in the wording of both questions; how the first question assumes into existence a conflict of interest that should concern public, and how the second makes suburban-quality education an either/or proposition with teacher raises and pensions.
Now, Zorn continues, behold the unsurprising findings: Fifty-nine percent of Chicagoans say Lewis should quit her union job if she runs for mayor. Sixty-one percent say they don’t want the longer school day repealed to pay for teacher raises and pensions.
What Zorn doesn’t point out (but I do in my book, The Problem with Survey Research) is that every question, by its wording, pushes respondents to give certain answers; pushes them in a certain direction. The only difference between the DFER survey and any other is the obviousness of the push.
If you want to find out what’s really going on, don’t ask!