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IBD/TIPP Doctors Poll Is Not Trustworthy

I’m flying 35,000 feet somewhere over Eastern Ohio now — isn’t technology wonderful? — so I can only comment on this briefly, but the Investors’ Business Daily poll purporting to show widespread opposition to health care reform among doctors is simply not credible. There are five reasons why:

1. The survey was conducted by mail, which is unusual. The only other mail-based poll that I’m aware of is that conducted by the Columbus Dispatch, which was associated with an average error of about 7 percentage points — the highest of any pollster that we tested.

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2. At least one of the questions is blatantly biased: “Do you believe the government can cover 47 million more people and it will cost less money and th quality of care will be better?”. Holy run-on-sentence, Batman? A pollster who asks a question like this one is not intending to be objective.

3. As we learned during the Presidntial campaign — when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 — the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they’re doing. I mean, literally none. For example, I don’t trust IBD/TIPP to have competently selected anything resembling a random panel, which is harder to do than you’d think.

4. They say, somewhat ambiguously: “Responses are still coming in.” This is also highly unorthodox. Professional pollsters generally do not report results before the survey period is compete.

5. There is virtually no disclosure about methodology. For example, IBD doesn’t bother to define the term “practicing physician”, which could mean almost anything. Nor do they explain how their randomization procedure worked, provide the entire question battery, or anything like that.

My advice would be to completely ignore this poll. There are pollsters out there that have an agenda but are highly competent, and there are pollsters that are nonpartisan but not particularly skilled. Rarely, however, do you find the whole package: that special pollster which is both biased and inept. IBD/TIPP is one of the few exceptions.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

Filed under Methodology 100 posts, Pollsters 54

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