The controversial Harper poll’s contention last week that 73 percent of Pennsylvanians are against the legalisation of online gambling generated an avalanche of comment on its use of negative and biased statements to influence opinions (see previous report).
Among the critics were acknowledged polling experts Nate Silver and Nate Cohn, with the latter perhaps the more direct when he characterised Harper Polling as “a newcomer to the land of cheap, partisan, automatic polling,” according to respected industry journalist Steve Ruddock.
One online poker publication, Online Poker Report, went further and carried out a poll of its own, using Google Consumer Surveys and posing a similar pointed question for respondents, but without the negative pre-statements.
OPR asked: “Do you favor or oppose legislation to legalize and regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania?” and gave respondents three options to express their view: In favour, Opposed and Not sure.
Assuming that most respondents would know very little about online gambling, and possibly do not have strong views or even interest on the issue, the expectation would be that the majority would choose the “not sure” option….and so it turned out to be.
The OPR survey found that slightly more respondents (sans negative and biased statements) were in favour of legalisation at 28 percent (vs. Harper’s 22 percent), whilst substantially less (21.5 percent vs. Harper’s 73 percent) were opposed to it.
The big difference in those opposed went into the “not sure” category (50 percent vs. Harper’s 5 percent), perhaps illustrating the influence that negative pre-statements such as Harpers can have on survey results…and the fact that polls are not always the final arbiters of an issue, as the recent general election results in the United Kingdom proved.