Parsons interview

Josh Parsons, chairman of the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, responds to a question from LNP | LancasterOnline reporters during an interview inside the LNP Media Group office at 101NQ in Lancaster city on Wednesday March 24, 2021.

During Wednesday’s hour-long interview with LNP | LancasterOnline reporters on the county’s COVID-19 response, Commissioner Josh Parsons took issue with a poll from Franklin and Marshall College.

A recently released public opinion poll by Franklin & Marshall College found Lancaster County residents overwhelmingly supported and would be willing to pay more in taxes for a local health department. For his part, Parsons took issue with how the survey was conducted, saying its questions were crafted to achieve the outcome wanted by its sponsor, the local United Way.

“It’s designed to get an answer,” Parsons said. “That’s OK I guess for United Way if they want to become an advocacy organization instead of an organization that helps poor people, then they can do that. And I guess F&M can do that, but what you can’t do is hold that out the community as an objective poll.”

Parsons categorized the survey as a “push poll,” which is defined by the American Association for Public Opinion Research as “negative campaigning that is disguised as a political poll. ‘Push polls’ are actually political telemarketing -- telephone calls disguised as research that aim to persuade large numbers of voters and affect election outcomes, rather than measure opinions.

Berwood Yost, director of the Floyd Institute’s Center for Opinion Research at F&M, refuted the accusation that it was a push poll.”

“This thing doesn’t come close to fitting a definition of what is a push poll,” he said. ”It’s convenient to try to label something in that way to discredit it but if the commissioner knew anything about research that label doesn’t apply.”

Parsons also took issue with how the questions are worded, and Yost said that question was better directed to Jennifer Meyer, one of the researchers and a government and public health professor at F&M, who did not immediately respond.

However he said the poll was designed in collaboration with a team of public health professors and economists, including health economists, and that the United Way did not have a roll in designing the questions.

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