From time to time, I enjoy marveling at the kind of questions that appear in ostensibly neutral Fox News polls. This latest entry only helps reinforce suspicions that the network asks questions intended to get an ideologically satisfying result.
C’mon. Does anyone seriously believe an independent poll would ask whether respondents feel like “the federal government has gotten out of control”? I think it’s far more likely Fox wanted to tell it’s viewers about results that reinforce a preconceived narrative, so it asked a question to illicit a predictable response.
As for the underlying point, it’s also worth noting that Fox did not ask whether the public believed “the federal government has gotten out of control” when the Bush/Cheney administration said warrantless wiretaps of Americans were legally permissible.
Let’s also not overlook the larger polling pattern. I’ve long marveled at the kind of questions that make their way into a Fox survey, starting in March 2007 when the network’s poll asked, in all seriousness, “Do you think the Democratic Party should allow a grassroots organization like Moveon.org to take it over or should it resist this type of takeover?” Soon after, another Fox poll asked, “Do you think illegal immigrants from Mexico should be given special treatment and allowed to jump in front of immigrants from other countries that want to come to the United States legally, or not?”
In 2009, a Fox poll asked, “Do you think the United Nations should be in charge of the worldwide effort to combat climate change and the United States should report to the United Nations on this effort, or should it be up to individual countries and the United States would be allowed to make decisions on its own?”
In March 2013, a Fox poll asked, “Former President George W. Bush stopped golfing after the start of the Iraq war. Do you think President Barack Obama should stop golfing until the unemployment rate improves and the economy is doing better?”
As a rule, professional news organizations put a great deal of care into how they word polling questions. To get reliable results that accurately reflect public attitudes, surveys have to be careful not to guide respondents or skew their answers.
It’s possible Fox is less concerned about accurately reflecting public attitudes.