Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What Do Americans Think of the Iran Deal? It's All in How You Ask the Question.

On Monday, two different polls about American attitudes toward the deal between the P5+1 and Iran came out, but with rather divergent results.

What explains the divergence? When you look at the polls themselves, it's easy to figure out: it's all in how you ask the question.

Let's look at the Quinnipac poll first. It found that Americans opposed the deal 57% to 28%.

What question did Quinnipac ask?
67. Do you support or oppose the nuclear deal with Iran?
Does the average voter--or even most voters--know a lot about what the "nuclear deal with Iran" does? Probably not. If you didn't know much about it, you might see "nuclear deal" and think it was a deal about Iran getting a nuclear weapon. 
The 85% of surveyed voters that claimed to have an opinion one way or the other seems far higher than the percentage that actually knows about the deal (or could even approximately place Iran on a map).

The Quinnipac poll found an unsurprising partisan divide. Republicans opposed the deal 86% to 3%, whereas Democrats supported it 52% to 32%.

Quinnipac asked another question that, if it directly preceded this one, was clearly trying to prime respondents.
47. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling - the situation in Iran?  
To be quite honest, I'm not even sure what this question means. What is the "situation" in Iran? Normally, this is the language used for a civil war, an eruption of protests, or a natural disaster in another country. 

However, unsurprisingly, responses cleaved on partisan lines. Republicans disapproved of Obama's handling of the "situation" in Iran 93% to 3%, and Democrats approved 67% to 23%.

The WSJ/NBC poll offers a striking contrast with the Quinnipac one. When they asked people about their opinions about the deal with Iran, they gave people some context to know what they were being asked:
As you may know, an agreement has been reached between Iran and a group of six other nations, including the U.S. The agreement attempts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by limiting Iran’s ability to produce nuclear material and allowing inspections into Iran’s nuclear sites in exchange for reducing economic sanctions that are currently in place. Do you support or oppose this agreement or do you not know enough to have an opinion?
In response to this question, 35% said they supported it, and 33% said they opposed it. Another 32% said that they didn't know enough to have an opinion. 
Those numbers intuitively make sense. Democrats will support it (for partisan and ideological reasons), Republicans will oppose it (for partisan and ideological reasons), but a lot of people won't have an opinion because they haven't been paying much attention.

Looking below the top lines, the partisan divide is as expected: Democrats support the deal 58% to 8%, while Republicans oppose it 60% to 15%.

When people are asked about specific points about policy, details matter.

No comments:

Post a Comment