How stupid is this: Six in ten swing-voting Americans might base their votes next year on what Japan is allowed to do to whales.

Presidential candidates who take a firm stand against Japanese whaling practices are more likely to gain support from swing voters, a new poll has shown.
The poll conducted on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare showed that six out of 10 swing voters would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who opposed the Japanese practice of killing whales for research.

I’ll confess that my first thought upon reading this was something along the lines of “Man, swing voters are stupid. We’re in the middle of a war, Japan has been a solid ally in that war, and they’re willing to throw that alliance out over whales?” But then I had an A-ha! The poll was conducted at the behest of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which just happens to advocate against whaling. The story does identify the poll’s sponsor upfront, but doesn’t say what wording was used in the questions asked in the survey. That might be a tad relevant. The Fund doesn’t publish that information on its web site, fwiw. Neither does Market Strategies, the firm that actually conducted the poll. But quality, unbiased polling and research is just built in that name, isn’t it?

The Fund’s site does offer this laugher:

More than 50% would be willing to stop buying Japanese products to convince the Japanese Government to stop its scientific research whaling

So…half of the country’s swing voters would give up Sony, Honda, Toyota, Panasonic etc etc etc to protest Japanese whaling? Riiiight.

What we seem to have here is a less a real poll than a political campaign, where the questions are worded in such a way as to generate–as opposed to measure–a response. To borrow a thought from Mickey Kaus, this probably wasn’t a robopoll and the questions were probably leading, to make the respondent react emotionally and thereby push up the whale vote’s importance. Then the findings get packaged and put out as a press release, which gets dutifully picked up by the press without much in the way of criticism or background research to determine if there’s a point of view being pushed. In this case, I’d say that there is. I have a hard time believing that six in ten swing voters would actually choose a president over his or her Japanese whaling policy.

Bottom line: I’m skeptical that the 08 vote might swing decisively on the whale question. This one poll is not convincing. But if I’m wrong and this poll turns out to be right and the presidency does hang on the end of a harpoon, expect to see a lot more whale blogging as we run up to ’08.