Magazine | October 1, 2012, Issue

Memorandum

TO: Polling staff

FROM: Stats department

RE: New polling questions

To All:

As you know, it’s “silly season” in our business, and if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that whatever poll results we report, someone is going to take issue with our methodology. Last week, as you will all recall, we reported from our polling data that President Obama enjoys a commanding 6 percent lead on challenger Mitt Romney, and as we expected, we came in for some heavy criticism about “bias” and “loaded” questions.

To that end, we’ve decided to amend some of the questions we’ve been using. We’re not — repeat NOT — bowing to outside pressure, but in the spirit of the enterprise, if we can fine-tune our efforts, we will always take the opportunity to do so. As you know, fairness is our watchword.

Please instruct your pollers to substitute the following in the “VOTER ATTITUDE

AND OUTLOOK 2012” set of questions:

QUESTION 1: “Are you aware that Governor Mitt Romney is a member of the Mormon Church, which believes in the existence of a planet called Kolob, which is according to Mormon scripture the closest planet to the throne of God?”

Please add “Massachusetts” before “Governor.”

QUESTION 17: “President Barack Obama is the first African-American president in U.S. history. Do you think that it’s racist not to reelect him?”

Please change the words between “racist” and “reelect” to “for you not to want to.”

QUESTION 19: “Are Americans better off now than they were in 2008?” Please change “2008” to “1932.”

QUESTION 20: “If the election were held today, whom would you vote for?” Please strike this question. We will extrapolate the response from the collected data from the entire set of questions.

QUESTION 27: “Whom would you rather have on your basketball team?”

Please add: “a lanky runner with a devastating free throw or an old white gazillionaire” to the end of the question.

QUESTION 35: Strike this question. Instead, show a pencil drawing of the typical Mormon religious undergarments. Ask pollee if they seem “weird” or “disquieting.” Ask if it will be disturbing to know that, should Mitt Romney be elected, he will be meeting with foreign leaders or giving the State of the Union address wearing these complicated underpants.

QUESTION 40: Instead of showing the photo of President Obama in the Oval Office, show the (attached) photo of him with a box of puppies. Then ask: “How do you feel about our president?”

QUESTION 42: Strike this question, and all questions in the “Foreign Policy” section.

QUESTION 49: “Don’t you think that President Barack Obama inherited a failing economy and a collapsed world financial system? Isn’t it unreasonable to expect him to solve every single thing in barely four years?” Instruct your poll-takers to use a more aggressive and accusatory tone of voice with this question. We seem to be getting unexpected answers from this and it’s throwing off our cumulative results.

QUESTION 56: “Isn’t it true that Barack Obama has provided health care for all Americans, saved the auto industry, cut taxes on the middle class, and restored America’s environment?” Please play the mp3 file (attached) of dramatic music while asking that question. When finished, demand a “Yes” or a “No,” and if a “No” is received, say to the subject, “You said ‘No’?” To which the subject will say, “Yes.” And then you say, “Okay, then. I’ll put it down as a ‘Yes.’” And then move quickly on to the next question.

QUESTION 62: Strike this question about tax hikes. Instead, show the photograph (attached) of a female cancer victim and ask, “Did you know Mitt Romney killed this woman with his own hands? How does that make you feel about Mitt Romney?”

A note about attitude: Please instruct your poll-takers to be careful about the attitudes they project to the subjects. We’ve been hearing reports of poll-takers nodding in agreement — particularly when subjects are saying uncomplimentary things about the president — and that skews the results. Remind them to nod in a neutral fashion, and when the subject veers into anti-incumbent attitudes, to lean forward slightly, and to say in a quietly insistent voice, “You sure you want to go on record with that, buddy?” Or, alternatively, “Careful, pal. The walls have ears. Know what I’m saying?”

As you know, none of these adjustments are going to mean we won’t suffer tiresome and totally unmerited attacks from the right (and the left, theoretically) about our methods and practices. But we do aim to be fair. After all, you can’t change an attitude unless you measure it.

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