Bloomberg’s poll (PDF), which the story was based on, asked the following (bottom of page five): “Do you think the spill proves off-shore drilling is just too dangerous and should be banned in U.S. waters, or was this a freak accident and offshore drilling can be made safer and should not be banned?” Based on this question, the Bloomberg headline blared: Americans in 73% Majority Oppose Deepwater Drilling Ban. The story begins, “Most Americans oppose President Barack Obama’s ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico spill…” Bloomberg made the same false claim two days later in a Businessweek story
Obviously, there is a huge difference between an indefinite ban on all offshore drilling and President Obama’s temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling. Regardless, Bloomberg polled about the former and reported on the latter. And frankly, I use the word ‘reported’ extremely loosely here. What Bloomberg actually did is fabricate public opinion information on a highly contested public policy issue that is currently being considered in some form by all three branches of government. This is important because political actors, both within Congress and the Obama Administration, may look to public opinion polls like this one to determine the proper course of action.