Stacking the deck with words?

roulette wheel by Hakan Dahlstrom FlickrSurprise: If you frame an issue positively, more people will support it.

A Siena poll out this week asked people about the upcoming ballot question on whether New York should legalize full casino gambling. When people were asked:

Do you support or oppose passing an amendment to the state constitution to allow non-Indian, Las Vegas style casinos to be built in New York?

Responses were: 46 percent support | 46 percent oppose | 8 percent don't know.

When people were read the following, which includes actual text from the ballot question:

A proposed constitutional amendment on casino gambling will be on the ballot in November. Specifically, the wording on the ballot says in part that the amendment would, QUOTE allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated, UNQUOTE. If you were voting today and were asked whether the amendment should be approved, would you vote yes or no?

Responses were: 55 percent support | 42 percent oppose | 3 percent don't know.

The poll's margin of error was +/- 3.4 percent, according to SRI.

Critics of the ballot question's wording have argued it casts an overly optimistic light on casinos. As NYPIRG's Blair Horner recently said of the question's phrasing: "It has more spin than a roulette wheel." [NYSNYS]

See also: the use of the word "gaming" instead of "gambling."

Right track/wrong track: The Siena poll also reported that 46 percent of respondents said the state was on the "wrong track" compared to 43 percent who said it was on the "right track." SRI says it's the first time since November 2011 the balance has shifted toward wrong track.

photo: Flickr user Håkan Dahlström (cc)


The language in the amendment should have been neutral on the content, as with any amendment. It's outrageous that Cuomo was able to include manipulative, implicit "vote yes" wording into the amendment. And there are no guarantees those nice outcomes will actually happen (especially increased aid to schools and lower taxes, some jobs maybe).

This is a very bad precedent and good gov't types should have sued to stop this clearly biased language from appearing on the ballot. Talk about gaming the system.

Two of my favorite things: Data and words. I kind of got wrapped up in that and don't remember the question.

Update: a Brooklyn lawyer is suing over the language.

"This [he argues] constitutes the use of public money to advocate the position of a public institution, in violation of the New York State Constitution and inserting this 'advocacy language' to the amendment is outside the Board of Election’s scope of authority."

Damn right!

Sienna ought to try wording the question negatively, that casinos actually destroy jobs and siphon wealth out of the community. I mean, if they are going to push-poll in favor of casinos, then they ought to push-poll in the other more accurate direction. But I guess they weren't hired to be fair.

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