Last week the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) happily flaunted a poll, conducted by Harper Polling, that indicated the vast majority of Pennsylvanians had an unfavorable view of online gaming expansion.
It should be noted Harper did not release the flow they used in asking these questions, so it’s unclear when in the process the negative statements were read.
It should also be noted that Harper Polling is not considered a bastion of unbiased polling by the two Nate’s, predictive model guru’s Nate Silver and Nate Cohn.
Cohn called out Harper’s methodologies in a 2014 article for the New York Times, calling the outfit, “a newcomer to the land of cheap, partisan, automatic polling.”
Silver has Harper Polling graded as a C+ on his FiveThirtyEight website.
The Harper poll was clearly biased towards the results it ultimately collected, complete with several negative statements about online gambling.
For an idea as to how these statements may have influenced results, here are some samples of these statements:
Legalizing online gambling in Pennsylvania will make it easy for children to be exposed to and participate in gambling, since it is nearly impossible to prevent minors from gambling online.
Traditional brick and mortar casinos in Pennsylvania have already had significant impacts on their local economies through job creation and community development. Online gambling is a job killer that does not involve any local community investment.
Along with the wording of the poll’s questions, these statements made it highly unlikely the respondents would have a favorable view of online gaming.
After reading those two statements (there were a total of six such statements) is it any surprise 73% of respondents were opposed to online gaming expansion in Pennsylvania?
This week Chris Grove of OnlinePokerReport.com cut through the rhetoric and hyperbole and posed a singular question to Pennsylvanians using Google Consumer Surveys.
The question was word-for-word the same as Harper’s with the exception that it was shortened to conform to GCS character limitations:
Original Question: Legislation is being considered in the Pennsylvania state legislature which would legalize and regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania. Do you favor or oppose legislation to legalize online gambling in Pennsylvania?
GCS Question: Do you favor or oppose legislation to legalize and regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania?
The potential responses were also identical:
- Not Sure
Somewhat similar number of respondents chose Favor
Interestingly, the polls produced identical percentages of respondents who favor legalization:
Harper = 22%
GCS = 28%
Most respondents were unsure
Even more intriguing were the results for “oppose” and “not sure.”
Without hearing the scaremongering claims Harper included, most respondents (as would be expected) have little knowledge of online gambling, and little interest in the subject.
Harper’s had just 5% respond “not sure” while Grove’s GCS poll found over 50% of respondents were “not sure” if online gaming should be legalized.
Since those in favor actually increased, the 45% increase in respondents who were “not sure” came from the “oppose” category.
|Responses||Harper Polling||Grove GCS|
What this demonstrates
The results of the GCS poll would seem to indicate that the extraneous and wildly biased information provided to Harper’s respondents helped shape their answers.
Online gaming is simply not an issue many people follow or have strong opinions on. This makes their opinions on the subject easily swayed, especially when they are presented with a list of apocalyptic talking points describing the evils of online gambling.
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