Misleading Rasmussen Poll Helps Prop Up Bogus Net Neutrality Partisan Divide

from the damn-lies-and-statistics dept

As we noted last week, the idea that net neutrality is a strictly partisan issue is a dated one, with several new studies indicating that support for net neutrality (and support for meaningful net neutrality rules) is increasingly common among members of all parties. As we’ve also noted several times, most people, when you sit them down and talk to them, understand that letting lumbering telecom duopolists write the laws, corner the market, and erect obnoxious new and arbitrary tolls, simply isn’t a very bright idea or conducive to healthy technology markets.

While a number of polls and surveys were busy deconstructing the myth of the partisan neutrality feud last week, Rasmussen Reports was busy trying to perpetuate it. The firm recently issued a new poll that breathlessly proclaimed that 61% of the public opposed net neutrality rules, while also insisting that people generally really like their cable and broadband providers:

“Most Americans have opposed increased government regulation of the Internet since December 2010 when some members of the FCC began pushing ?net neutrality? efforts to stop some companies from offering higher downloading speeds to preferred customers. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Americans who regularly go online rate the quality of their Internet service as good or excellent. Only five percent (5%) consider their service poor. Americans remain suspicious of the motives of those who want government regulation of the Internet. Sixty-eight percent (68%) are concerned that if the FCC does gain regulatory control over the Internet, it will lead to government efforts to control online content or promote a political agenda, with 44% who are Very Concerned.”

Of course if you actually bother to investigate the questions asked of survey participants, you’ll notice this amusing little ditty:

“Should the Internet remain “open” without regulation and censorship or should the Federal Communications Commission regulate the Internet like it does radio and television?”

Note that in this case the question tells the poll taker the Internet is currently “open” and that regulation will automatically change this. Amusingly, the phrase “and censorship” is just kind of thrown in there casually, as if nobody reading the poll questions could possibly ferret out that Rasmussen is being misleading. It’s effectively asking survey recipients: “Do you like government meddling — that involves punching you squarely in the face?”

The Rasmussen poll wording also goes on to more subtly rattle ye olde “all regulation is automatically evil” saber, strongly implying that real competition would be immeasurably better than consumer protections. That’s partially true — we’ve obviously argued more than a few times that net neutrality violations are just the symptom of the lack of competition disease. That said, Rasmussen intentionally ignores (or doesn’t actually understand) that Title II with forbearance is the best option available in the face of an immensely powerful broadband duopoly (or monopoly) that’s simply not getting fixed anytime soon.

Obviously this isn’t the first time Rasmussen has brought loaded questions to play. The firm’s reputation as a reliable pollster took a mammoth hit back in 2010 for repeatedly being significantly off on projections, and having what Nate Silver and Five-Thirty-Eight at the time complained was “cavalier attitude toward polling convention,” something Silver stated would “need to be refined” if the pollster was to ever be taken seriously again. Judging from their net neutrality poll, those necessary improvements may not be coming anytime soon.

That said, do you support net neutrality…when it involves getting kicked in the groin?

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Comments on “Misleading Rasmussen Poll Helps Prop Up Bogus Net Neutrality Partisan Divide”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah. The questions design is problematic to begin with “free now – regulated after” as the central paradigm.

The additional use of censorship to implicitly paint one of the choices is in the nono-abc of polling: “Never use negatively or positively loaded words to describe one outcome if it can be avoided!”. It is so fundamental to polling that Rasmussens error here is so inexcusable that it indeed points towards malicious intent.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Never use negatively or positively loaded words to describe one outcome if it can be avoided!”

Wait a second. You appear to be missing the fact that this is not polling (ie. “a scientific attempt to learn facts of reality or the populace’ interpretation of reality”).

This is producing a result which your taskmasters have paid you to produce. This is production of propaganda. Its sole intent is to suck in the easily led sheep to your employer’s point of view.

Aka “marketing.”

Oblate (profile) says:

Well, it depends...

That said, do you support net neutrality…when it involves getting kicked in the groin?

Well, speaking as someone who gets to choose between Verizon and Comcast, I have to ask a few questions- is the kick squarely in the groin, or somewhere in the area? Is it a soccer style kick, or more like a football punt? What type of footwear will be involved? Will I have to pay a rental fee for the footwear? Which pre-kick positions do I get to choose from? Will the post-kick recovery involve a punch to another area to help me ignore the groin pain, or will it be a kick to another area? What are the stated charges for the kick, and how much less are they than the actual charges? How long is the appointment window for the kick, and how long will I have to wait to re-schedule when the first kicker doesn’t show up?

These are the questions that customers familiar with the cable/internet industry in the US will want to know the answers to. Now, who was it that trusts these same companies to act in the customers best interests unless forced to (via net neutrality)?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Well, it depends...

There’s a lot worse things than being kicked in the groin:

1) Paying my TimeWarner-soon-to-be-Comcast bill
2) Having to call TimeWarner customer service
3) Having my TimeWarner internet service cut out in the middle of a gaming session or Netflix binge
4) Switching my crappy TimeWarner service to even slower and crappier AT&T service

madgeek says:

comment to atritcle

Since every thing is done on the internet : looking for work : applying for work : Banking : Tax filing : ECT ! If we don’t have good internet service, then nothing will get done. We will not be able to pay our bills on line : taxes : house payments : find good health care : Find work : guess we will all have to go on welfare.

Dial-up might be the answer ! Telcoms could not slow one down very much more. Oh, but they have dropped a lot of copper wire connections !

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

I was thinking...

…that there should be an arbiter of some nature that can score a poll on quality.

One analysis group could analyze the questions and determine the likelihood of those questions answering any question.

Another analysis group could take the questions and do a stress test, is this question leftist, rightist, neutral, or north by northwest?

Yet a third analysis group could cover the quantitative end of things. Is the poll size too large, too small, or just right, with an overly subjective mission statement defining what just right is, with regard to the poll being analyzed. Were enough questions asked, or was the pollee still in grasp of their mental faculties after reading the poll, in which case the number of questions should go up by a factor of 10 until a general numbness is felt in the void.

Then there would be an analyst analysis group that would analyze the results of the rest of the analysis groups and give a score dependent upon the size of the gift awarded and to which analysis group that most influenced the quality of that award thereby rendering all polls as both effective and eloquent.

And then I though, what could possibly go wrong?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I was thinking...

I was trying to work out an obfuscation test. Obfuscation has density right? So if we weigh a poll and then pour off the obfuscation into a clear liquid, the obfuscation’s density would cause that clear liquid to become cloudy. Then using some known scale for opacity, give a rating as OD/PW where OD is Obfuscation Density and PW is Poll Weight. Perfectly clear, right?

Paul Renault (profile) says:

And what were the meaningless survey question? Here..

If they had called me and asked these questions below, I’d have verbally spanked them for asking misleading or irrelevant questions, and then ask why were they setting up false dichotomies. Bonus: asking question that there’s no way I can know the answer. Grrr.

From Rasmussen’s site:
National Survey of 1,000 Adults
Conducted November 11-12, 2014
By Rasmussen Reports
1* How closely have you followed recent news reports about so-called Internet “neutrality” issues?
2* Should the Internet remain “open” without regulation and censorship or should the Federal Communications Commission regulate the Internet like it does radio and television?
3* How concerned are you that if the FCC does gain regulatory control over the Internet it will lead to government efforts to control online content or promote a political agenda?
4* What is the best way to protect those who use the Internet—more government regulation or more free market competition?
5* How often do you go online and use the Internet?

6* (Answered by 908 American Internet Users) How would you rate the quality of your Internet service?

7* (Answered by 908 American Internet Users) How private are your Internet communications now?
8* (Answered by 908 American Internet Users) How likely is it that the government has monitored the Internet activity of you or a member of your family?
9* Is it any longer possible to guarantee that an individual’s Internet searches will remain private?
NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And what were the meaningless survey question? Here..

  1. Has the problem of using so-called and “” when describing the issue. It is superfluous to use both if you dont want to taint the issue and “so-called” has clear negative connotations.
    2. Crappy question mr Bode desected well.
    3. Is the “how often do you beat your wife?”-fallacy. You are concerned so shut up!
    4. Is problematic as it makes the choice “free vs. government”. That way to describe it will give a bias.
    5. Is a clumpsy question. Why both “go online” and “use the internet”? Seems like an unneccessary specification.

    6. Classic paid question for a provider of “internet service”…
    7. I have no idea what that even means.
    8. Is a paranoia-meter. Often used for preparing release of information to show how wrong people are.
    9. Do 8.

Anonymous Coward says:

Given that Republicans in congress have opposed net neutrality, it’s no surprising that Rasmussen would run polls to try to support their position.

The founder of Rasmussen is close to Republicans, even going to some GOP fund raisers. There were some stories about this in past election cycles when Rasmussen polls were consistently favoring Republican candidates 4+ points more then everyone else (and yes, those Rasmussen polls turned out to be dead wrong, including being off by 40 whole points in a Hawaii senate race).

Scot (user link) says:


well no-doubt internet saves our time. but if internet won’t be much better for our utility then there would be a huge crowd in banks and offices for different affairs, as now people do most of their work online like billing, for Gas, Electricity, Taxes and shopping as well as is done online. another issue would be of unemployment as almost 30/40% people work online or their work depends on internet. so internet should be fast and good.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: As opposed to...

The current monopolies are the result of a “strong collaboration” between corporations and the government. I know – we will ask the corporations to fix the problem! What could possibly go wrong?

The corporations have been ‘fixing the problem’ all the way to the bank for years now, and it hasn’t worked out so well in the public’s favor, which means it’s time to try something different.

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