Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Dog that Didn't Bark

In June 1968, a Gallup Poll had the following question:  "Some people are calling this country a 'sick society.' Do you agree or disagree with them?"  36% said they agreed, 58% disagreed, and 6% weren't sure.  In December 1985, a Los Angeles Times poll asked the same question: 39% agreed and 55% disagreed, again with 6% not sure.  This is a case where the absence of a difference is interesting.  The 1968 poll was taken just a week after the assassination of Robert Kennedy and a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, with the Vietnam war at its height.  In contrast, 1985 was "morning in America":  Ronald Reagan had been re-elected in a landslide, the economy was doing well, and tensions between the United States and Soviet Union seemed to be easing.

The question in the LA Time survey followed a fairly long series of questions about AIDS, which may have led people to focus on the negative.  But it still seems surprising.  

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