New poll shows many believe violent rhetoric has an effect
I like polls because they begin to quantify statements about opinions.
But one thing my past experience as a Marketing professional for a major corporation taught me, they don’t tell an absolute story. Only further study over time along with an analysis of where people get their information gives us an idea of where our opinion compares to others. That, along with how the study is made (landline vs cell phones), age, and how the questions are presented.
Here’s a poll that hasn’t gotten much press as of yet. It differs with an earlier CBS Poll on basically the same subject.
Americans seem split on the issue of sharp rhetoric and the violence in Tucson, Ariz. A CBS poll showed that 57 percent of Americans thought vitriolic rhetoric had nothing to do with the shooting. A subsequent Quinnipiac poll, however, found that 52 percent of respondents believed that “heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence,” compared to 41 percent who don’t see such a link.
Looking beyond the CSM quote above, the actual questions found in the polls…
The CBS Poll was conducted “January 9-10, 2011 among 673 adults nationwide first interviewed by CBS News December 17-20, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.”
The Quinnapiac Poll was conducted “January 10-11…by live interviewers calling land lines and cell phones…of 581 voters.”
One day separates the two polls. Both use not only landlines, but cell phones. CBS targets adults, Quinnipiac targets voters.
The CBS Poll asked:
“Did harsh political tone have anything to do with Arizona shootings”
-yes 32%, no 57%
“Were Loughner’s political views a factor in Arizona shootings”
-probably 45%, probably not 33%, don’t know 22%
The Quinnipiac Poll asked:
What do you think is the main reason for the Arizona shooting; failure of the mental health system, lax gun control laws, overheated political rhetoric, or do you think this is a situation that could not have been prevented?
-mental health 23%, gun laws 9%, rhetoric 15%, can’t prevent 40%, don’t know 14%
(Tell me how “can’t prevent something” equates to the main reason why. Can’t prevent it isn’t a causal reason, it’s a follow up question-otoc)
Do you think heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence or don’t you think so?
-yes 52%, no 41%, don’t know 7%
What these polls tell me is that with one day, more people had more time to evaluate their position. And the press locked in a talking point by using only the CBS poll. I wonder where people would poll today and only hope that extraneous questions such as “can’t be stopped” in a list of causes doesn’t happen again.