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Health Care Polls Plagued by Bias

There is a science to conducting opinion polls.  The pollsters must ensure that they have a random sample of the population and that the respondents are not influenced by the  manner in which the poll is  conducted or how the questions are worded.  A recent article on Yahoo! News  “Health care polls leave pols dizzy” points out that one may find poll results to support almost any opinion on health care reform.1  The article states, for example,  that an  “ABC News summary of the results of eight polls from late July through mid-August found that support for a ‘public option’ ranged from 43 percent to 66 percent”.  This certainly presents a problem for our politicians in knowing where public opinion is on health care reform.

 To further confuse the issue, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has sent its own questionnaire to all Republicans, requesting their opinion on issues – including healthcare.   The survey included a four-page letter from Michael Steele, the RNC Chairman, clearly meant to influence the responses.  After assuring that the RNC’s  “core ideals remains sound and our goals remain worthy” the letter goes on to further polarize the issue by claiming Democrats plan “to give amnesty to illegal aliens, which could possibly bankrupt Social Security” and “to nationalize health care and have it run by bureaucrats in Washington, DC.”

 The three questions from the RNC survey on health care reform are listed below. The bias may be subtle – but see if you feel comfortable answering ”Yes” to any of the questions:    

 9. Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington, DC?                                                                                                                                                      O Yes  O No  O No opinion     

  10.  Do you believe that the quality and availability of healthcare will increase if the federal government dictates pricing to doctors and hospitals?                                                                                                                                             O Yes     O No     O No opinion

11.  Are you confident that new medicines and medical treatments will continue to be developed if the federal government controls prescription drug prices and sets profit margins for research and pharmaceutical companies?                                  O Yes         O No       O No opinion

The validity of the RNC poll is further compromised by a request for funds accompanying the letter. What do you think? Does the RNC want the opinions of its members or results that will influence Republican legislators?

(1) http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090928/pl_politico/27640

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