*It’s all in how you word the question

IT’S ALL IN HOW YOU WORD THE QUESTION…. This Rasmussen poll is getting some attention today, but it’s not quite as informative as it could have been.

Despite efforts by the Obama political team and its surrogates to link Rush Limbaugh to the Republican Party, just 11% of GOP voters say the conservative radio commentator is the party’s leader.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republican voters disagree and 8% are undecided in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

This certainly makes it sound as if the vast majority of rank-and-file Republicans don’t see the right-wing blowhard as the head of the GOP. But take a look at how Rasmussen asked the question in the poll:

“Agree or Disagree: ‘Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party — he says jump and they say how high.'”

This poisons the well a bit, doesn’t it? Rasmussen used this wording because it came from criticism levied by Brad Woodhouse, former president of Americans United for Change, but for a public opinion poll, it’s likely to skew the results. As Eric Kleefeld noted, “Not surprisingly, GOP respondents don’t want to admit they are the yes-man patsies of a radio loudmouth.”

It reinforces an observation Matt Yglesias made last week: “Rasmussen is a pretty good pollster whose results are within the range of accuracy one wants from a pollster. But polling is a crowded business. And Rasmussen doesn’t also have a daily newspaper or a television network to tout his results. His business, however, requires attention. So how does he get that attention? Well in part he gets it with issue polling that, while basically methodologically sound, has question-wording that’s designed to lead to conservative-friendly results. Then the results come out and conservatives tout the results as vindicating their position. It’s free PR for Rasmussen, it’s a morale booster and message-driver for the right.”

It would have been more interesting if the poll had played it straight, and asked who Republicans consider the leader of their party. I suspect Sarah Palin would have done fairly well, and perhaps Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal would have been up there. But I also imagine that Limbaugh would have been very much in the running.