Monday, November 27, 2006

Do you still beat your wife?

Push polling is a technique used by political hacks to communicate a message (usually a distortion or even out right lie) in the form of a question or poll. The technique was notoriously used by Karl Rove in Bush's campaigns against incumbent governor Anne Richards in Texas and Senator John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination.

Todays poll question in the Globe and Mail is another, perhaps more subtle, example of a push poll. The question is rather simple. Do you agree that private clinics are a useful adjunct to Canada's health-care system? The results show that somewhere around 63% of respondents said yes to private clinics.

The problem is that they don't really set the context for the question. Private labs, private imaging clinics, private clinics offering laser eye surgery and private physician's practices have been a part of the Canadian health care landscape for years, and are broadly accepted by the public as well has public health care proponants. There is nothing controversial or even warranting of a poll question about private clinics of this nature. What is controversial is private surgical facilities and those which bill patients directly or over and above what they are paid by the provincial medical services plans. But the poll question does not make this distinction. From the appearances, 63% of Globe and Mail online readers are in favor or private health care delivery. That is the message they are communicating.

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