Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Would Tennesseans Lie to MTSU Student Pollsters?

Some students at Middle Tennessee State University took a poll that strikes the informed observer as unscientific:

The new poll from Middle Tennessee State University reveals residents are
worried about the economy but enjoying a brief honeymoon with their new
president. There was no such honeymoon for the Tennessee legislature, which is
registering the lowest public approval numbers it has seen since the Tennessee
Waltz corruption scandal — and apparently dragging the governor's approval
numbers down as well.

More than two-thirds of Tennessee residents polled — 70 percent — said they
had heard or read jokes about the new president's race. One out of six admitted
to cracking a racist joke themselves. Only 15 percent said they thought such
jokes were funny.

"Those results don't make a lot of sense," said MTSU Poll Director Ken
Blake. "Two-thirds of the people say they've heard these jokes, but most say
they aren't telling them and most say they don't enjoy them. Then where are the
jokes coming from?"

Humor at the expense of the President's race should not be considered acceptable comedy. With that said, I humbly propose that respondents to this poll were not being truthful in their answers. Political correctness presently dictates that any criticism of the President is to be deemed as racist. Tennesseans, being a self-conscious lot, wouldn't take it upon themselves to admit to a group of college students the negative opinions they might have of Barack Obama.

Since many people do not even pay attention to the Tennessee General Assembly, that would also bring into question the next portion of this poll.

It was a three-way split over who should be running the General Assembly — 37 percent wanted the Democrats, 33 percent want the Republicans in charge, and 30 percent were undecided.

If those numbers are in any way reliable, we are in for divided government and narrow swings in the House for many years to come. The problem, however, rests with the larger questions that were not asked at all. How much do respondents know about the General Assembly? How many know their Representative's name, or the name of the Speaker of the House? There are ways to weave those important questions into the poll and use them to tabulate the results in an intellectually honest way.

It would be interesting to see a similar poll taken by Gallup or Zogby to analyze what percentages might be similar and which numbers may be different.

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