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The Wichita Poll [30th January 2001]
A second opinion poll conducted in the USA between January 2nd - 15th, 2001, gave a clearer demonstration of how biased such a survey could be.
The Wichita Eagle (Kansas) published the following headline on the 30th January, 2001:
"Poll: Wichitans express support for fluoridation". What is perhaps not readily visible to the reader is that the poll was conducted by the newspaper's own "Research Centre."
There is nothing wrong with a newspaper publishing the outcome of it's own opinion poll but when such a poll was contrived to influence the respondent into giving a reply which favours fluoridation, the issue takes on a new perspective.
A total of 20 questions were asked in the 'Wichita poll', some of which are not relevant to this story. Questions 1 and 2 asked about the respondents residency. Questions 11 to 20 asked about dental insurance and social practices. This left questions 3 to 10 to focus on fluoridation.
Question 3 was a 'primer' and made a positive assertion about fluoride:
"Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that prevents tooth decay. Some communities add fluoride to the public's water supply to help improve resident's dental health. How familiar are you with the use of fluoride to prevent tooth decay?"
Three times an association between fluoride and improved dental health was made. However, no mention was made of the fact that fluoride added to water can contain many impurities such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, cyanide, etc. The question also failed to present any credible evidence that fluoride in water prevents tooth decay. There is no doubt that this question introduced an element of conditioning.
Question 4 asked where the respondent obtained their information about fluoride.
Question 5 then asked if the respondent was in favour of or opposed to adding fluoride to Wichita's water. This question was supplemented and the respondent had to explain their point of view.
Questions 6 and 7 made further numerous positive assertions about fluoridation. This is an attempt to reinforce question 3 and to sway the respondents who are opposed to fluoridation (possibly with a view to influencing the respondents views in a future poll).
Question 8 was a repeat of question 4 except the respondent was asked which source they considered the best for information about fluoridating Wichita's water. This again is a clever ploy to dissuade opponents who may not have based their views on 'sanitised' information sources.
Question 9 asked the respondent who was best placed to decide on a plan to introduce fluoridation, a Government official, the voter, or 'do not know'.
Question 10 asked how the respondent would vote if given the opportunity.