Accompanied by images of a sprawling mass of big black rats, and then a close-up (separate) of a baby asleep in its crib, that’s what the ad for the local TV news said: “Do You Want Rats in YOUR Baby’s Crib? News at 11.”
It was maybe ten years ago, but I remember then just sitting before the TV astonished. I had babies, but I had never been asked that question before. I hadn’t even realized that that particular group of words could amount to a question. After much consideration of what seemed to be a rather limited set of options, I decided to go with “No,” but watched the news anyways just in case I had missed something.
I had not.
It was with similar feeling recently that I pored over the latest health care reform survey from the Republican National Committee. The survey was sent to the RNC faithful and is destined, I’m sure, to be spun into the latest “facts and figures” about the “pulse of the nation.” The introduction to the survey promised the putative survey taker that through the magic of Republican survey math:
Your answers represent the views of thousands of other Republicans living in your area. And your active membership in the new RNC will help us fight the Obama Democrats and recruit and train new Republican candidates nationwide. (emphasis added).
The survey itself is well worth taking the moment or two to read through, if only to get a better idea of how the spin works. But there are a few questions that simply need to be highlighted. As follows:
3. Do you believe that your health care decisions should be made by you and your doctor, and not government bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?
7. Rationing of health care in countries with socialized medicine has led to patients dying because they were forced to wait too long to receive treatment. How concerned are you that this would be inevitable in the U.S. under the Democrats’ plan?
11. Does it concern you that the Democrats are trying to ram health care legislation through Congress THIS MONTH to limit the American people’s opportunity to evaluate it?
12. Does it concern you that the liberal media has gone to unprecedented levels to only give Obama’s views on health care reform and no one else’s?
Though I’m told the study is one of subtle difference, I make no claims of expertise regarding the art or science of survey and polling. But in the Law there is an old adage about courtroom practice that one is taught very early on: “Never ask a question that you do not know the answer to.” It is a cardinal rule. No one could accuse the RNC of having broken it.
As we laugh at the crude and unabashed manipulations in the survey above, it may however behoove us to consider this: as the RNC mounts its attack on the Health Reform bills emerging from the House & Senate, Chairman Michael Steele accuses President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key congressional committee chairmen of being part of a “cabal,” and then further states that “Republicans will stop at nothing,” perhaps we should believe him.
And when question #7 gets spun into an ad that starts:
“A Majority of Americans polled are ‘extremely concerned’ that the Democrats’ health care plan will ‘inevitably’ kill them. Shouldn’t you be too?”
Some people will listen. Just like I listened to the rats in the baby’s crib story (rat only seen somewhere in apartment building, woman in building had baby). But not everyone who listens will laugh.