Politics

Did the New York Times and CBS News ask leading questions to twist Wisconsin polling data results?

The New York Times and CBS News have released a general public poll on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan as it relates to public sector unions, and critics are saying the poll results don’t necessarily support the conclusions drawn in the Gray Lady’s Tuesday front-page story.

The Times story was titled, “Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions.” But the paper and CBS used phrases such as “taking away” collective bargaining rights when conducting the poll.

Conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen told The Daily Caller, “There’s an awful lot in common ground between their poll and ours.” Rasmussen’s mid-February poll, which showed the public on Walker’s side, received criticism from Times pollster Nate Silver. Rasmussen found that 48 percent of respondents sided with Walker and 38 percent sided with unions, by asking respondents, “In the dispute between the governor and the union workers, do you agree more with the governor or the union for teachers and other state employees?”

On his NYTimes.com blog, Silver argued that Rasmussen’s data was skewed because of other questions he asked, such as, “Does the average public employee in your state earn more than the average private sector worker in your state, less than the average private sector worker in your state, or do they earn about the same amount?” and “Should teachers, firemen and policemen be allowed to go on strike?”

Silver contended that the thought of “strikes” could “invoke” a certain feeling about unions in respondents. Silver refused to comment for this story.

Rasmussen said the New York Times survey confirms a lot of his findings, but, “you have to read carefully what’s being asked and what’s being looked at.”

“They show a very modest net favorable rating for unions, the same as we did,” Rasmussen said. “What I found fascinating in the New York Times’ survey is that 37 percent of Americans said they think unions have too much influence on American life and politics. Only half that number, 19 percent, say they [unions] have too little influence.” That fact appears at the bottom of the Times story.