PETA’s Push Poll

July 29, 2021

The answers to questions sometimes depend on how they're asked.

Most people who are interested in politics are familiar with the concept of a “push poll” – a survey designed to shape public opinion instead of gathering it. This is done with questions that are highly tendentious, if not based on outright lies: “If you knew that John Smith molested children, would that make you more or less likely to vote for him?”

Well, as organizations go, they don’t come any more tendentious than People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA has treated us to a survey whose results it trumpeted in the headline: “Majority of Americans Want Slaughterhouses Shut Down, New Poll Reveals.”

The first paragraph of PETA’s press release is instructive:

A new online survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of PETA has found that 51% of Americans—and 66% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34—support closing down slaughterhouses forever1 ...after they became COVID-19 hotspots during the pandemic, PETA announced today.

If that little superscript “1” after “forever” caught your eye, congratulations. Here’s the footnote it refers to:

1After being shown the following: Slaughterhouses, in which billions of animals are killed every year in the U.S., are hotspots for COVID-19, having infected over 58,000 workers and killed nearly 300 since the start of the pandemic, though not all cases and deaths were reported so the actual numbers are likely even higher.

Nice setup, eh? If you pointed out that sunshine is the leading cause of skin cancer, you could probably get at least a substantial minority of respondents agreeing that the sun should be snuffed out.

Not to mention the negative connotations of “slaughterhouse” as a word. Who likes slaughter?

But as my boss pointed out, ask them if they want all meat processing in the U.S. shut down, and you’d probably get a very different response. Like “no bleeping way.”

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