Beacon Center Press Release - In what can only be considered an affront to legitimate pollsters everywhere, Vanderbilt University released its latest poll showing that 64% of Tennesseans support Insure Tennessee, Gov. Haslam’s proposal to extend Medicaid benefits to upwards of 450,000 people. The poll is seriously flawed for a number of reasons, including the fact that Vanderbilt refused to release the topline results publicly, contrary to the practices of reputable polling outlets across the country.
A look at the National Council of Public Polls shows that the Vanderbilt poll doesn’t even meet some of its level one disclosure principles, including complete wording and ordering of questions mentioned in the release. Only due to reporting by the Tennessean can the public even know what question was asked relative to support for Medicaid expansion.
Beacon Communications Director Mark Cunningham noted, "This is one of the most poorly worded questions I have ever seen in my years of analyzing polls. It is no surprise that they got the result they did." The actual question posed was: "Do you strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose expanding health care coverage for low-income people in the state?"
"Everyone at the Beacon Center would have answered 'support' to that question," Cunningham said, pointing to a quote from Beacon CEO Justin Owen echoing this sentiment when Insure Tennessee was defeated. Cunningham concluded that, "It seems that Vanderbilt is more interested in shaping public opinion than gauging it."
My Comment: This is unbelievable that Vanderbilt University would ask such a question and then reach the conclusion that 64% of Tennesseans support Insure Tennessee. A majority of Tennesseans may support the Insure Tennessee plan of Medicaid expansion, but that is not what was asked.
How about this: "Do you strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose low-income people in the state having adequate food to eat?" After you compile the poll results then you could say, "Tennesseans support expanding Food Stamps in Tennessee."
Or, how about this: Do you strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose low-income people in the state having adequate shelter?" Then you could conclude the the poll result show, "Tennesseans support expanding public housing in Tennessee."
Vanderbilt University should be ashamed. Based on who you ask, how you ask, and what you infer from the results, one can get a poll to produce almost any answer one wants. Advocacy groups do this all the time. I expected a little bit more from Vanderbilt.