Jonathan Chait

The Slanted Times Union Poll, A Denouement

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Yesterday's New York Times poll showed that the public, by a 60-33% margin, opposes taking away collective bargaining rights from public employees. Conservatives pronounced the poll hopelessly biased. Fred Barnes -- last seen here calling for poll results designed to produce support for the Republican agenda -- declared, under the headline "Skewed Public Sector Union Poll Ignores Reality":

New York Times/CBS News poll never lets you down.  Today’s survey features a skewed sample (36 percent Democratic, 26 percent Republican), tricky questions, and an emphasis on results likely to thrill liberals and Democrats.

Commentary ("A Shoddy New York Times Poll"), Ira Stoll ("A Slanted New York Times Poll"), the Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, the Heritage Foundationtwo different NewsBusters posts all chimed in making the same point.

And now, the Wall Street Journal has a new poll out asking this question. Finally, a chance to correct the record -- Right, freedom-loving champions of accurate public opinion data?

Uh oh:

Eliminating collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits would be either “mostly unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable,” 62% of those surveyed said. Only 33% support such limits.

It looks like the conspiracy to slant the news runs deep.

My favorite post of all of the criticisms comes from Commentary's John Steele Gordon, who sneers at the Times poll:

How do you square these figures with the results of last November’s elections, in which anti-tax, anti-deficit, anti-public-union forces swept to historic victories in federal and state elections across the country? Well, you can’t, of course. The Times doesn’t even ask this blindingly obvious question, let alone try to answer it.

Obviously, Republicans didn't run on eliminating collective bargaining for public employees. But his comment perfectly encapsulates the mentality of a huge proportion of the conservative movement. The 2010 election proved the American people agree with them on everything and that the 2008 election was a fluke (or perhaps a reaction to Republican overspending.) Any data which suggests otherwise on any element of the GOP agenda is by definition biased.

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