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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to read a poll

A Pew Research poll finds that of the 79% of Americans (surprised it's so low) who have heard about President Hussein Obama's sellout to a nuclear Iran, most are opposed to the deal, don't trust Iran to abide by it, and have limited confidence in the West's ability to monitor it (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Among the 79% of Americans who have heard about the agreement, just 38% approve, while 48% disapprove (14% do not offer an opinion).
There is widespread skepticism about aspects of the agreement, particularly the Iranian leadership’s commitment to the terms of the deal: Most of those familiar with the agreement say they have not too much (35%) or no confidence at all (38%) that Iran’s leaders will uphold their side of the agreement. And while there is greater confidence in the U.S. and international agencies’ ability to monitor Iran’s compliance, 54% are not too (33%) or not at all (21%) confident, while a smaller share (45%) express at least a fair amount of confidence in their ability.
I'm sure many of you saw the Obama administration claiming that most Americans support the Iran deal, as shown by polls like this one. So what's the difference? Why the gap in the results? Pew explains:
The different findings on public views of the Iran nuclear agreement in the Washington Post/ABC News and Pew Research Center surveys highlight how question wording – and the information provided in a question – can impact public opinion, particularly on issues where public views are still being shaped and information levels are relatively low. The Pew Research question, which does not describe the agreement, finds lower levels of support than the Post/ABC News question, which details the intention to monitor Iran’s facilities and raises the possibility of re-imposition of sanctions if Iran does not comply.
In other questions, both the Washington Post/ABC survey and the Pew Research Center survey find substantial public skepticism about the agreement. The Pew Research Center survey asks about confidence in Iran’s leadership to uphold their end of the deal and the ability of the U.S. and international agencies to monitor compliance, finding that majorities are not confident about either. And the Washington Post/ABC News poll asks people how confident they are “that this agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons – very confident, somewhat confident, not so confident or not confident at all,” finding that 64% are not confident in this.
Though levels of support for the agreement differ depending on how the question is asked, both questions find large divides between Democrats and Republicans in approval of the deal, although that division is more pronounced in the Pew Research question than in the Washington Post/ABC News question.
In other words, it's all in how you ask the question (and what results you choose to highlight), which is why large political campaigns all hire their own pollsters. 

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