I am writing in response to the Aug. 17 article discussing the results of a survey on rangeland reform. I was disgusted when I read the setup of the question, but I was honestly shocked to see that the poll was conducted by a polling organization. What type of organization is this and where did they learn how to take an accurate poll? Apparently nowhere.
Everyone knows that the first rule in designing an accurate survey question is not to bias your participants in the question. At least I thought everyone knew this. You cannot say, "Intelligent people choose box A. Which box would you choose?" This has effectively biased your audience toward a particular answer and therefore your poll results are invalid.The question used in the poll conducted July 26-28 begins, "Scientists say that Western rangeland is deteriorating" and goes on to ask participants' opinion of what should be done. One of the possible choices was "Do nothing. Current grazing levels on federal lands aren't significantly harming the environment." Regardless whether this choice is correct or not, who would choose this answer after the setup of the question?
As long as we're on the subject of that particular phrase in the question, it is false. No credible scientist would make a blanket statement that Western rangeland is deteriorating. In fact, the Bureau of Land Management, in its "State of the Public Rangelands 1990," states that, "Public rangelands are in a better condition than at any time in this century."
In light of this situation, I hope the public will take surveys and results such as this with a grain of salt and not put too much merit in them. It is hard to respond to a survey when you are not familiar with the complexities of the situation being discussed; and it is even harder when the survey question is extremely biased.
Salt Lake City