blog Time Hath Found Us: Polls: Its All In What Is Asked

April 02, 2005

Polls: Its All In What Is Asked

You will recall the much ballyhooed ABC news poll which supposedly "proved" that most Americans supported the judicially ordered murder of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Upon closer inspection the results of that poll are very much open to question. Why? Because the questions that were asked seem to have been written to elicit a predetermined result. This is called "push polling" and is recognized by the pollsters themselves as unethical and shady.

** UPDATE 4/4/05: In regard to "push polls" see this post.**

A new Zogby poll which asked:

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water,"

An overwhelming 79% answered that such a person not be denied food or water while only 9% answered yes.

Compare the wording of the Zogby poll above to one asked in the ABC news poll released March 21st:

"As you may know, a woman in Florida named Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her parents and her husband disagree on whether or not she should be kept on life support. In cases like this who do you think should have final say, (the parents) or (the spouse)?"

The problem with this question is that Terri Schiavo was never on "life support" and the words "has no consciousness" and "condition is irreversible" are debatable depending on whom one asks. These are misstatement of facts which conjure up images of a comatose person being kept alive by a heart-lung machine which bear no resemblance to reality in Terri's case.


The Zogby poll found that, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, as in Terri's case, 43 percent say "the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube" while just 30 percent disagree.
When asked directly about Terri's case and told the her estranged husband Michael "has had a girlfriend for 10 years and has two children with her" 56 percent of Americans believed guardianship should have been turned over to Terri's parents while 37 percent disagreed.

I believe that most people in this country assume that the law places the burden of proof on those which would seek to terminate a patient's life. Sadly, it is apparent that the onus falls on those pleading for their loved one's life. This is not an issue exclusively for the "know-nothings and charlatans who are waging war on law and reason and science and medicine in the United States..." meaning you and I, but for all reasonable people concerned about a runaway judiciary and pompous eugenics espousing "bioethicists."