Public opinion can turn on a dime. Moreover, the way the question is asked affects the polling results. When this is carried to an extreme, it is known as “push polling,” an effort to affect public opinion by asking questions.
One example of push polling was illustrated last night on the nightly news and opinion shows such as Hardball with Chris Matthews. The influential question was phrased like this: If our military commanders feel ground troops are necessary to beat ISIS, would you be in favor of sending them?
The preface to the heart of the question, “If our military commanders feel ground troops are necessary …” skews the results of the poll and provides very different results from solely asking “Are you for or against the use of ground troops against ISIS?
Touting this poll as evidence of a change of heart in American opinion is misleading at best and push polling at worst. It is being used to make people feel there has been a sudden change of opinion from a war-weary public, and there is a new groundswell of support for a ground war against ISIS.
One hopes that the major so-called polling organizations in the country desist from this push polling effort, and, at least, it is exposed for what is: a blatant attempt to convince the public of the necessity of a ground war by making them think that their fellow citizens feel the same way.