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.
But Fox News polls tend to be a little different.
I remember the first time I marveled at a Fox News polling question. It was March 2007 and the network 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 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?”
And here’s Fox News’ latest gem, in a national poll published this morning:
“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?”
First, Bush claimed he gave up golf after the August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. official in Iraq. The claim, however, wasn’t true. Second, presidential leisure activities have nothing to do with a war, or the economy for that matter.
And third, Obama’s golf outings aren’t stopping him from addressing the unemployment rate – a rate that has already improved thanks in large part to the president’s policies – congressional Republicans are.
So why would a news outlet that claims to be legitimate put a polling question like this into the field? It’s a question only Fox News can answer.