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Earthjustice's clean water poll comes up short

By Peyton Knight
web posted February 11, 2008

Last month, the environmental activists at Earthjustice breathlessly released the results of a poll the group had commissioned that supposedly reveals rural voters' feelings on the Clean Water Act. The purpose of this classic push poll is to give the impression that rural voting districts support a vast expansion of the Clean Water Act, and therefore, would support the Clean Water Restoration Act (H.R. 2421 and S. 1870), a bill designed to bring federal regulatory authority to every field drainage ditch, pond and prairie pothole in the nation.

However, a look at the actual polling data reveals a different story than the group presents in its press release.

For example, in its press release, Earthjustice claims: "Results from the survey of 300 randomly selected rural voters in each of three congressional districts in Illinois (15th), Ohio (18th) and Tennessee (4th), polled in mid-December, show that more than three-fourths of those polled indicated they were very concerned about pollution of lakes, rivers and streams."

This simply is not true. The poll results clearly show that an average of only 55 percent of those polled responded that they were "very concerned" about "pollution of lakes, rivers and streams." Thus, Earthjustice inflated the poll's actual results by over 20 percent.

In addition, the results show that a clear majority of those polled (roughly 63 percent) do not have ANY concerns about drinking water straight from the tap. This bit of inconvenient truth failed to make it into the Earthjustice press release.

Christine Matthews, president of the firm that conducted the poll for Earthjustice, states in the press release: "The notion that farmers might view environmental regulations as excessive was absolutely not in evidence here."

This may be true, however, only because Matthews' company didn't bother to ask many farmers. The polling data shows that a whopping 77 percent of those polled do not "currently own, operate, or work on a farm."

Earthjustice also trumpets that 55 percent of those polled agreed with the poll interviewer that "the government has not gone far enough with laws to protect the environment and to keep our water free from pollution." But considering the usual one-sided nature of push polls, this particular poll's 5.6 percent margin of error and the fact that those likely to be most affected by federal clean water regulations (i.e., farmers) weren't truly represented, this number is hardly impressive. In fact, nearly half of those questioned either responded that "the government has gone too far with laws regulating environmental protection which has hurt businesses and landowners," or didn't care enough to have an opinion. ESR

To contact author Peyton Knight directly, write him at pknight@nationalcenter.org.






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