EFCA Polls: Yet Again, It All Comes Down To The Question

Here’s yet another object lesson in how much the phrasing of a poll can affect the results — this time on the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card-check.

First, let’s look at a new Gallup poll:

Generally speaking, would you favor or oppose a new law that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers?
Favor 53%
Oppose 39%

This one suggests that people are certainly favorable to unions — but on the other hand, it doesn’t tell us anything about how the specifics of EFCA would play out. Indeed, the pollster’s analysis points out that it should be troubling for labor that only 53% are supportive, before the specifics are debated.

Next up is the new Rasmussen poll, showing some serious antipathy to EFCA. Let’s look at how they phrased not just one question — but three of them.

Here’s the first question:

2. Should Congress change the law to make it easier for workers to form or join a labor union?
33% Yes
40% No
27% Not sure

The phrasing here is different from Gallup’s — it doesn’t ask what you think about a proposal, but about what Congress should do. And it focuses on a specific act — Congress changing the law — rather than the generality in Gallup. And thus we have a huge difference in the results.

That might normally be dismissed as a piece of natural variation between pollsters. But it gets more and more interesting from there:

3. Under current law, if enough workers express interest in forming a union, a secret ballot is held. Is it fair to require a secret ballot to determine if workers want to form a union?
61% Yes
18% No
22% Not sure

Of course, who doesn’t like democracy? Some of those 18% who said no were probably pro-EFCA respondents who sensed, consciously or not, where this was going next:

4. Some people believe that a secret ballot vote is not necessary and that a union should be formed whenever a majority of workers sign a card saying they want one. If a majority of a company’s workers sign a card saying they want to form a union, is it fair to form a union without having a vote?
32% Yes
52% No
16% Not sure

Having primed the pump with a question about secret ballots, we’re now expressly presented with the idea of not getting to vote. And so starting from 61% saying they want a secret ballot, we get 52% opposing card-check.