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A Study in Bad Survey Design


The headline at Political Wire read “More Would Blame Democrats for Debt Default.”

A number of thoughts ran through my head, including wow, the Democrats are still losing the messaging war, if the GOP can manufacture an economic crisis and dodge the blame, our media remains broken, and I wonder if this is an effect of asymmetric media coverage?

My curiosity was piqued. My hackles were up. I had questions. So I clicked on the link, which took me directly to the full survey.

Well, isn’t that special.

  • Shorter question fifteen: how do you feel about the Democrats wanting to spend trillions of dollars?
  • Shorter question sixteen: in case you missed it, the Democrats want to spend trillions of dollars.
  • Shorter question seventeen: whom would you blame if the US defaulted on its debt?

I’m surprised only 32% said the Democrats.

Maybe the priming effects of the two questions provides useful information about how the real-world political debate my play out. But there’s no excuse for not explaining in the question, even if in as neutral terms as possible, why the US is looking at possible default.

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