The American Prospect on John Zogby Animal Rights Poll

The left wing magazine The American Prospect published an interesting look at pollster John Zogby in its February 2003 issue, which uses as its centerpiece an animal rights poll taken by Zogby International.

The poll in question, which was cited in a New York Times Magazine cover story about animal rights, claims that 51 percent of Americans believe that “primates are entitled to the same rights as children.”

The main thrust of The American Prospect article is that although Zogby polls such as this are cited as objective, nonpartisan polls by the media, that instead Zogby International is essentially selling push polling to clients and creatively wording questions and interpreting results to produce poll results favorable to the groups it hires.

The poll cited by the New York Times Magazine story, for example, was paid for by the Doris Day Animal League (which the NYT did not bother to mention). That, in and of itself, doesn’t make the poll invalid, but it should have garnered the poll more scrutiny. And when The American Prospect’s Chris Mooney looked at the poll closely, it was little more than a push poll. Mooney writes,

Look more closely at the Doris Day Animal League survey. The New York Times Magazine report that 51 percent of Americans think “primates are entitled to the same rights as human children” goes far beyond anything in the actual poll. First, the poll didn’t ask about primates — a category including anything from pygmy mouse lemurs to gorillas — but about chimpanzees. Second, the actual question gave respondents four options to choose from: In brief, they could say that chimps ought to be treated “like property,” “similar to children,” “the same as adults” or “not sure.” Given this particular set of choices, option two was the obvious pick — almost as if respondents were steered toward it. And after 51 percent had chosen “similar to children,” the Zogby survey inexplicably translated “similar” into “the same” in its conclusions — a very big difference. The Doris Day Animal League then reported this in its press materials.

Well, at least Zogby gave the Doris Day Animal League what they paid for! Mooney documents other examples of Zogby International releasing polls about policy-related topics that are little more than press release fluff predesigned to reach a conclusion favored by the client paying for the poll.


Jon Zogby’s Creative Polls. Chris Mooney, The American Prospect, February 1, 2003.

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