Question Wording Matters in New Fast and Furious Poll From CNN


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Did Wording Affect the Fast and Furious Poll Results?

The questions may have been written with the intention of refreshing respondents’ memories, but sometimes this type of phrasing can mislead respondents. For example, the first question above (Approve or Disapprove) doesn’t give the context behind the DOJ’s reasoning for refusing to provide the documents in question, and may have confused respondents who have not heard a great deal of information on the topic.

Also, the second question (Ethical Concerns or Political Advantage) appears to have been asked without rotating the order of the two options. If “mostly because they want to gain political advantage” was the last part of the question heard by all respondents, it may have been more likely to stick with them as they provided answers.

Interpreting the Poll Results

Did disapproval of Congress impact respondents’ answers? Image by Ipankonin

Some of the reasoning behind the poll results may be due to the fact that the Fast and Furious incident is a very complex, politically divisive issue. Depending on which cable news program respondents are watching, respondents are either being told that Holder is acting inappropriately, or that the vote was political theatre. This type of coverage garners high ratings, but doesn’t give viewers much information they can use to learn about the matter and reach solid conclusions.

The confusing responses on this poll may also be related to the poor approval ratings associated with Congress. The current RealClearPolitics approval average for Congress is only 17.8 percent. This number, along with Holder’s low approval rating, show that Americans are generally pessimistic about most political figures. Some respondents may genuinely feel that there is corruption on Holder’s part and on the part of Congress.


CNN. CNN/ORC Poll. (2012). Accessed July 10, 2012

RealClearPolitics. Congressional Job Approval. (2012). Accessed July 10, 2012

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