real or fictional public opinion stories?

All right scatterbrains, I need your help. I am preparing a fairly major talk and I’d like to use a couple of examples I’ve heard of anecdotally but am not sure they actually exist. I’ve had no luck with “the Google” in finding them either way. So I ask you: have you heard of these, or anything similar?

The first is US public opinion about a fictional US invasion – I’d heard it as “Do you support or oppose the US invasion of Pago Pago”. The upshot is that lots of people give an opinion about the fictional invasion.

The second is asking people where the phrase “From each according to ability, to each according to need” comes from and finding a substantial endorsement for the Declaration of Independence.

Can anyone confirm, deny, or document either of these, or similar? Thanks!

Author: andrewperrin

Johns Hopkins University - Sociology and SNF Agora Institute

6 thoughts on “real or fictional public opinion stories?”

  1. This is what I found for the second:

    ^ Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions, citing FAIR, Press Release, July 19, 1988. Poll on Constitution, Boston Globe Magazine, Sept. 13, 1987, cited by Julius Lobel, in Julius Lobel, ed., A Less than Perfect Union (Monthly Review, 1988, 3).

    You can find it on page 13 (according to PDF count) here:

    I can’t get to the Boston Globe article (footnote 6 in pdf). I’m sure you can get it through the library though.


  2. This reminds me of the Coyle & Sharpe radio comedy duo. They would approach strangers on the street, offer them a ridiculous premise (in this case, that a group of people–“piscihumanists”–are living, as fish, off the coast of California), and ask their opinion on an ancillary issue (e.g., whether fish people should be allowed to continue to draw social security benefits). Apparently people take pretty firm stances on retirement benefits for fish people.

    All free on Itunes…


  3. Some quite early work on response-bias in polling tested a range of loaded or false questions like these, I think. See, for instance, a 1941 paper by Floyd Ruch, “The Problem of Measuring Morale“. There he reports on some research by others on the difference in the rate of affirmative responses between the questions “Do you like the idea of having Thanksgiving a week early this year?” and “Do you like President Roosevelt’s idea of having Thanksgiving a week early this year?”

    The canonical demonstration (on a single subject) of framing effects in political opinion polls is of course this one. A video clip would probably not be too difficult to find.


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