The New York Times accused Rasmussen Reports of lacing a recent survey on the Wisconsin protests with conservative bias, elevating longstanding critiques about the polling firm’s credibility.
The survey, released Monday, asked four questions about the Wisconsin clash over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan, which would strip the collective bargaining rights of public employees and force them to pay more for benefits. It found that 48 percent of “likely voters” agreed with Walker, while 38 percent supported his opponents.
Nate Silver of the Times‘ FiveThirtyEight blog is a trusted polling expert who came to fame after correctly predicting the outcomes of 49 of 50 states in the 2008 election. In a Monday evening posting, he took issue with the manner in which several of Rasmussen’s questions were asked, decreeing that they were designed to engender a pro-Walker bias.
Two of the questions, Silver wrote, misrepresented the nature of the opposition in a “blatant” attempt to diminish sympathy for them before asking the respondent whose side they were on. The penultimate question was “a talking point posed as a question,” he declared.
The questions were about whether the respondent thinks public or private sector employees make more money, and whether “teachers, firemen and policemen” should be allowed to go on strike — which is illegal in most places for uniformed services.
“Because of the problems with question design, my advice would be simply to disregard the Rasmussen Reports poll, and to view their work with extreme skepticism going forward,” Silver concluded.
Rasmussen, fending off years of criticisms of harboring a Republican-leaning bias, is taken very seriously by the mainstream press. Its founder and president, Scott Rasmussen, has openly supported conservative causes and is a former writer for the conspiracy-minded website World Net Daily.
It released hundreds of surveys in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, many of which made prominent news in major outlets. The Times reported that Rasmussen “overestimated the standing of Republican candidates by roughly 4 percentage points on average.”
“Rasmussen should probably just drop the pretense that they are non-partisan,” Silver wrote Monday on Twitter.