Saturday, October 24, 2009

Slanted online polls

I think it's about time we talked about the entire regime of online news polls. You know the kind--a news story prompts an Internet media agency to post a poll asking a yes-or-no type question, and then provides a list of selectable answers. Instead of the answers being simple and objective such as "yes," "no," or "I don't know/have no opinion," they are often phrased in a way that makes at least some people have to "say" things they don't really mean (or choose not to vote at all).

The following News10 poll caught our attention tonight:

Following Friday's death of a Delhi child from a pit bull attack, do you think pit bulls should be allowed in homes with small children?Yes. Pit bulls are only dangerous if they are not trained properly.No. Pit bulls are too naturally aggressive to be around children.

I know many of our members wanted to vote, but some just couldn't bring themselves to select either answer. Both answers mandate that, in order to vote, one must assert that Pit Bulls "are dangerous."

Yes. Pit Bulls are no more potentially dangerous than other dogs of similar size.

That, at least, is a true statement. (At least if you believe the National Geographic bite force tests which show the Pit Bull's jaw strength is less than that of both the Rottweiler and the German Shepherd).

And anyone who wants to say, "But German Shepherds don't kill babies." Um. Yes, they do. In fact, there were at least 27 human deaths caused by German Shepherds between 1979 and 1998 in the United States (and deaths caused by police dogs are NOT included in this number). Great Danes caused 8 human deaths during this same time period.

These numbers come from the CDC Report, and unfortunately, it's impossible to tell how many deaths were caused by Pit Bulls during this time period, because the CDC study only references "Pit Bull type" dogs (it doesn't say "German Shepherd type" dogs, in comparison). So, we have no way of knowing what "Pit Bull type" dog includes. Does it include Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Boxers and American Bulldogs and all the other breeds commonly mistaken for Pit Bulls (like Presa Canarios, Bandogs, Dogos, and anything else that has short hair)?

We'd like very much to see News10 and other agencies change they way they craft their online polls to include more neutral (and factually correct) statements as answer options. We don't mean to pick on News10 because, after all, we LIKE News10 (especially after their exceptional story on Continental Airlines and its horrible breed discrimination policy):D (Of course, we're totally objective on that point!)

But, come on... enough is enough with the slanted online news polls!

Should you wish to send your POLITE comments to News10, you can email the agency at

CDC Report:

Author D. Capp holds an M.S. in medical science (biochemistry and genetics), a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and a law degree.

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