Jill and I blundered into a fair today while walking to the Post Office (side note: Jill and I have wandered into many fairs in our day, and I don't think we've ever done so intentionally). It was fun -- there was a chili cook off and we registered to vote. And as we were walking, we saw a booth for an outfit called "Generation Opportunity." It rang a very faint bell, but it sounded like one of those neat non-profits that helps empower underprivileged high school students, so we decided to check it out.
They described their mission as surveying young people to find out what their priorities were, then advocating for those values. They gave an example of a proposed sales tax which I didn't know much about, then suggested we fill out one of their surveys. Jill, good quantitative researcher that she is, immediately asked what methods they had for ensuring that their surveys were actually representative of our generation by including low-income young people and people of color. The mumbled response about how there were other people who did that might have served as a red flag.
But then we took the survey, and it took one question for me to say "This is a push poll!" ("uhh ... yeah, the questions are worded terribly, I've talked to them about that."). "Do you think jobs are created by lowered taxes or bigger government?" "Do you think we should improve the economy and lower the debt by increasing government spending or decreasing it?" "Do you want to exercise your right to opt out of Obamacare?"
That last one was a subject near and dear to the staffer's heart -- he was very keen on informing us that we could decide not to participate in the Affordable Care Act. "I thought if I didn't participate Obama would, like, throw me in jail, but it's really just a fee you pay." I wanted to ask him if, given that his old sources were so terrible he thought he'd be imprisoned if he didn't get health insurance, if maybe he had thought about turning elsewhere for information on Obamacare, but I didn't. After turning down the offer of various swag emblazened with "opt out" (surely, a slogan our generation will get behind), I walked away.
Jill was actually a pretty happy camper -- she says she enjoys push polls because you know exactly what answers will piss the pollsters off ("why yes, I think larger government is the key to a healthy economy"). But I found myself very annoyed. These guys were basically grifters. The "opt out" movement is terrible -- it encourages people to go without health insurance to prove a political point, but you can bet dollars to donuts that if any of these kids actually get sick their erstwhile allies will do nothing but encourage them to die quickly. And even if they stay healthy, the goal of the program -- to deprive the health insurance market of healthy people to make it unaffordable for sick people -- is unspeakably evil. Frankly, I found it quite disgusting.