How one word can make a difference in polling

Another example of how words can affect survey results: A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that people are  more likely to support the ability of public employee unions to negotiate wages and benefits when it’s referred to as “collective bargaining rights” rather than just “collective bargaining.”

In a telephone survey of 1,384 voters in Ohio, where the governor has proposed limiting the ability of public employee unions to negotiate, Quinnipiac asked half the respondents whether they “support or oppose limiting collective bargaining for public employees.” The poll found 41 percent of voters favor the measure, while 48 percent are against it.

When the same question was asked with the word “rights” inserted, the results changed: 38 percent supported the measure, while 54 percent opposed it.

“Whether collective bargaining is a right or not is in the eye of the beholder, but the word ‘right’ appears to have an effect on the voters’ response,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Q-poll.

In another split-question poll done last year, University of Michigan researchers found that self-described Republicans were far more likely to say they believed that “climate change” is happening than to agree with the concept of “global warming.”