Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I'm back in effect mode... yeah.
So the Ann Arbor News ran a piece today on Ward's hustle to raise money for his ballot initiative to ban Affirmative Action in the state of Michigan. The article is fairly basic and doesn't lend much insight into the complicated discussion of how well citizens can or will be informed/mobilized on this issue. Last week, the A-deuce News ran a story on the EPIC-MRA survey that found 63% of residents are not in support of racial preferences. Note: I said racial preferences, not Affirmative Action. The wording of the question, as reported by the A-deuce News, asked if residents would be in favor of a ballot initiative to "prohibit government agencies or universities from discriminating against or granting any preferential treatment to someone on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin."
The language is critically important, dependent on the term used (affirmative action, racial preferences, discrimination, reverse discrimination, etc.) the findings of surveys and polls vary. Below you'll find an editorial by Doreen O'Donovan, a Ford School student, about the News' reporting of the poll. I don't think the Ann Arbor News ever ran her editorial. Boo them!
Dear Editor,

I am surprised that the Ann Arbor News would allow itself to be used as a tool
by the enemies of affirmative action. Your article "Affirmative-action
disfavor" fulfils their dream to confuse the public. The poll was written just
as anti-affirmative action supporters wrote the state ballot proposal: in a
perplexing manner.

The semantics involved in writing polling questions is no accident. Research
supports that the wording of the proposal is more important that the actual
content. Just look at your article. "Respondents were asked whether they
would support a state ballot proposal that would prohibit government agencies
or universities from discriminating against or granting any preferential
treatment to someone on the bases if race, sex, color; ethnicity or national
origin." What! How many times do you have to read that to figure out what
they are supporting?
University of California Regent Ward Connerly, who founded the American Civil
Rights Institute to end affirmative action policies, has learned from his past
mistakes. Affirmative action was upheld in Texas due to positive phases.
Negative wording was used in the California Civil Rights Initiatives of 1996.
It asked whether voters wanted to "eliminate" affirmative action programs. The
positive wording in the November 1997 referendum in Houston, Texas asked
whether the voters preferred to "retain" the city’s affirmative action program.

Results of vote to eliminate affirmative action in California: 55% Yes, 45% No
Results of vote to retain affirmative action in Houston, Texas: 55% Yes, 45% No

When the Board of State Canvassers approved the ballot proposal on December 12,
protesters primary concern was the wording. As journalist it is our
responsibility to report on the entire story, not just the words fed to you by
the out of state group that proposes to change our state constitution. Point
out the purposely-convoluted wording and how it might affect those who answered
the poll. Ask why Texas was able to control the wording of the ballot and the
Michigan Board of State Canvassers was not. That is the real story.

Don't forget to look at the ballot initiative language, which is located in the political corner!

Dress warm ya'll, it's gonna be a cold winter (in more than one way)!

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