More Americans Say Immigrants Help Rather Than Hurt Economy

Five months into Donald Trump’s presidency, 49% of U.S. adults believe immigrants help the nation’s economy by providing low-cost labor, outweighing the 40% who think immigrants hurt the economy by driving down wages. This is a near reversal of the last time Gallup asked this question, in 2005, when more thought immigrants harmed (49%) than helped (42%) the economy. CONT.

Art Swift, Gallup

Take that chocolate milk survey with a grain of salt

File 20170627 24760 mrp8tm
And don’t expect chocolate ice cream, either.
Barney Moss, CC BY

Lauren Griffin, University of Florida and Troy Campbell, University of Oregon

It’s been all over the news lately: a survey by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy suggests that 7 percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

The takeaway of much of this reporting is that Americans are science illiterate as well as uninformed about how their food is produced. This interpretation is intuitive: research has suggested that Americans lack understanding of many scientific concepts and the story line of Americans as woefully ignorant of science is perennial. As a society, we are also urbanizing and fewer people work in agriculture, so it’s unsurprising that many don’t know how food is made. These survey results line up with this prevailing wisdom.

But is this what the survey is actually telling us? To us as researchers studying science communication and public understanding of science, factors in the survey itself and in the way the media report on it raise questions about how much to read into these findings.

Survey’s results aren’t publicly available

Researchers are trained to look for the original methods whenever they read a new study, especially if the results are surprising. Learning how the study was done provides information that helps determine whether the science is sound and what to make of it.

The chocolate milk survey is described as a nationally representative survey of 1,000 American adults, but this is impossible to verify without seeing how respondents were selected. Likewise, how the survey was conducted – whether it was a phone or online survey, for instance – can have significant impacts on its accuracy. Research suggests that phone surveys may be less accurate than online surveys because they require people to give their responses out loud to another person instead of quietly clicking away in privacy.

For instance, someone who holds racist views may feel comfortable checking a box about it but might avoid openly professing those opinions on the phone to a stranger. It’s unlikely the chocolate milk survey ran into such problems, but depending on the questions asked, other challenges may have presented themselves.

Just to clarify, the recipe includes chocolate and milk.
tracy benjamin, CC BY-NC-ND

Likewise, it’s difficult to interpret the results of the chocolate milk question without seeing how it was worded. Poorly phrased or confusing questions abound in survey research and complicate the process of interpreting findings.

An NPR interview with Jean Ragalie-Carr, president of the National Dairy Council, is the closest we can get to the actual wording of potential responses: “there was brown cows, or black-and-white cows, or they didn’t know.” But as Glendora Meikle of the Columbia Journalism Review points out, we don’t know if those were the only options presented to respondents.

This matters. For instance, if respondents associate some color cows with dairy production and other color cows with beef production, it’s easy to see how people could become confused. If this is the case, they’re not confused about where chocolate milk comes from, but about the difference between dairy cows and beef cows.

Social scientists call this a problem with validity: the question doesn’t really measure what it’s supposed to measure. Of course, without seeing how the question was worded, we can’t know whether the chocolate milk question had validity.

Indeed, early media coverage focused on the 7 percent statistic but left out the fact that 48 percent of respondents said they don’t know where chocolate milk comes from. This gives context to the 7 percent number. While it’s conceivable that 7 percent of the population doesn’t know that chocolate milk is just milk with chocolate, the idea that a full 55 percent — over half of adults — don’t know or gave an incorrect response begins to strain credulity. This points toward a confusing survey question.

We reached out to Lisa McComb, the senior vice president of communications for Dairy Management, Inc., about the survey. She confirmed that it’s not publicly available. “The purpose of the survey was to gauge some interesting and fun facts about consumers’ perceptions of dairy, not a scientific or academic study intended to be published,” she told us.

Story feeds a popular narrative — and media missed it

Questions about the original findings aside, there’s reason to explore how the media covered the chocolate milk survey.

At least they knew cows produce milk?
USDA Photo by Bob Nichols, CC BY

The results were instantly shared and republished by a mind-boggling number of outlets (a Google Trends search for “chocolate milk” and “brown cows” shows a spike beginning June 15th). This factoid likely garnered such massive attention because it feeds into a popular narrative about American ignorance and science illiteracy.

Our research suggests that people who are often accused of being “anti-science” are not necessarily as unscientific as one might think. The rapid spread of this story is likely related to the desire, unfortunately prominent among many liberals, to see and label other people as ignorant.

Studies suggest we are more likely to accept new information when it confirms what we already want to believe. In this case, the chocolate milk statistic fits well with the notion that Americans are fools, so it’s accepted and republished widely despite the numerous red flags that should give scientifically minded people pause.

But the fact remains that many reporters and news outlets decided to run the story without having seen the original results, instead citing one another’s reporting. This led to some interesting challenges when trying to fact-check the survey: The Washington Post links to Food & Wine’s coverage, which linked to the Innovation Center’s website, which originally publicized the survey results. The Innovation Center, in turn, links to a story on, which linked right back to the Food & Wine article. This type of circular reporting without seeking out the original source can lead to the spread of misinformation. Unfortunately, as news stories quickly pop up and go viral online, it’s all too likely that we will continue to see such problems in the future.

Importantly, none of this disproves the notion that some adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. It certainly does nothing to undermine the need for increased science education in the United States or suggests that a better understanding of our food production system wouldn’t be beneficial to society. All of these points are still valid. Likewise, this isn’t necessarily evidence that the survey itself is flawed. As McComb notes, the survey is not a scientific one and isn’t meant to be taken as evidence of Americans’ knowledge (or lack thereof) of dairy products. The problem is that it’s being reported on as though it is.

The ConversationSo this survey did point out a lack of science understanding. Ironically, rather than showing Americans’ ignorance of chocolate milk’s origins, the fact that media coverage of this survey was reported so widely and with so few caveats instead showed that many people are not skeptical of the science they read.

Lauren Griffin, Director of External Research for frank, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida and Troy Campbell, Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Oregon

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Poll shows little support for Senate GOP health bill, even among Republicans

Most Americans disapprove of the GOP’s handling of health care. That’s according to a new NewsHour poll, in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and NPR, that looks at Americans’ opinions on President Trump, health care, the economy and more. Judy Woodruff examines the results with Lee Miringoff of Marist and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report.

PBS NewsHour

Public Supports Aim of Making It ‘Easy’ for All Citizens to Vote

As states around the country debate laws regarding access to the ballot – ranging from automatic voter registration to voter ID requirements – most Americans back making it easy for all citizens to vote. But they overwhelmingly reject the idea of requiring people to vote. CONT.


No Time to Rest on Our Laurels

Even though I only played a small part in the Georgia CD 6 special election (did two surveys there for a SuperPAC), the win by Karen Handel was supremely satisfying. Competitive special elections receive an inordinate amount of attention because they are the only game in town (yes, South Carolina CD 5 happened the same day, but the attention and money differential was huge, even if the outcome was similar). …

Democrats should take cold comfort in the fact that their candidate in the special elections performed better than the Democratic congressional candidates in 2016. Open seats are almost always closer races than incumbent races, so a tighter race in 2017 compared to last November doesn’t mean it is a moral victory. There is no such thing as a moral victory in politics.

However, what the Handel win should not lead to among Republicans is hubris that everything is going to be great in 2018. History argues strongly against that. CONT.

Glen Bolger, Public Opinion Strategies

Aversion to difference

Last week, I examined two of the three strands of conservative thinking — aversion to government and aversion to change — which Donald Trump melded together in his successful effort to capture the White House.

Here I’ll focus on the third — aversion to difference — which mostly lay dormant in recent years, until Trump ignited these passions, giving them a central place in his campaign.

While establishment Republicans urged the party to embrace America’s diversity and its immigrant communities, Trump attacked them, fanning the flames of inter-group hostility—and found a receptive audience. CONT.

Mark Mellman (Mellman Group), The Hill

Fox News Poll: 27% favor Senate GOP health care plan, as vote gets delayed

By two-to-one, American voters oppose the Senate health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act — even as a majority wants to repeal at least some of the existing law.

That’s according to the latest Fox News Poll, conducted Sunday through Tuesday evenings. CONT.

Dana Blanton, Fox News

Why the GOP’s Plan for Health Care Hit a Wall

One key reason Senate Republicans have been forced to retract and retool their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act is that the legislation favors one pole of the party’s modern coalition so emphatically over the other.

The teetering Senate repeal bill, like its predecessor the House passed in May, would shower a large tax cut almost exclusively on the very high earners who compose the party’s fundraising base. Simultaneously, the bill would impose deep benefit cuts—both in the private insurance market and Medicaid—on the older and blue-collar whites who now provide the largest share of the party’s votes. CONT.

Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic

Only 12% of Americans support the Senate health care plan

Just 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, amid a roiling debate over whether the GOP will deliver on its signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. CONT.

Susan Page & Emma Kinery, USA Today

A number certain to strike fear in the hearts of Senate Republicans

Here’s an indisputable fact: The health care legislation Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on Tuesday is very, very unpopular with the public.

Less than 1 in 5 people (17%) approve of the Senate bill, according to a new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll released Wednesday morning. A majority — 55% — disapprove. The numbers are disastrous among Democrats (8% approve) and independents (13%) but perhaps most surprisingly bad among Republicans — just 1 in 3 (35%) of whom approve of the Senate legislation. More self-identified conservatives disapprove of the bill (34%) than approve of it (31%). CONT.

Chris Cillizza, CNN