Foie Gras Industry’s “Poll” Discredited

The foie gras industry is attempting to mislead the public and the NY City Council by claiming their “poll,” conducted by Change Research, shows that “New Yorkers are not in favor of the proposed ban.” This statement stems from a severely flawed survey. Alternatively, an creditable poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon, found that 81% of New York voters support Intro 1378.

Change Research is an unreliable polling company that uses non-traditional polling methods.

  • Change Research uses “online” polling methods

    • The top 40 polling companies in the US all use “live” polling methods. This is the most traditional and accurate polling method. According to Pew Research, “The accuracy of a poll depends on how it was conducted. Most of Pew Research’s polling is done by telephone. By contrast, most online polls that use participants who volunteer to take part do not have a proven record of accuracy.”

    • According to the New York Times, “…the alternatives to traditional polling are not fully mature, and the absence of a clear set of standards for online polling research has opened the floodgates to unproved surveys of uncertain quality.”

    • According to FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings, based on the historical accuracy and methodology of each firm’s polls, the top 35 out of 36 polling organizations with an A+/A+A- rating exclusively use “live” polling methods. Live pollsters include trusted companies like: ABC, CBS, NBC, La Times, Mason-Dixon, CNN, and Gallop. 

    • According to FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings, Mason-Dixon, used by Voters for Animal Rights, is rated #36 in the US versus Change Research’s standings at #284. 

    • Change Research is self-identified as a “political organization,” this excludes Change Research from being a full unbiased third-party polling company. Mason-Dixon, on the other hand, is a “market researcher” firm.

    • Traditional polling is centered around reading questions live, adjusting for biases, and identifying the respondent as a voter. Live polling is conducted by highly trained professionals to verify the respondents. Online polling methods simply cannot account for these biases. In fact, nearly 25% of the respondents did not finish the Change Research poll.

    • Online polling is certainly more convenient, but historically inconsistent. FiveThirtyEight developed a statistic to evaluate pollster performance to assess these inconsistencies, and clearly, Change Research ranks poorly. Change Research’s tagline “fast, affordable” pales in comparison to the time and investment made by Mason-Dixon on behalf of VFAR for valid, reliable results representing the opinions of all New York voters accurately. 

    • Inclusivity matters. Online polling is inherently bias towards white educated respondents, excluding the valid and rightful opinions of New York voters with less readily available access to online polls, including low income voters, voters of color, voters with disabilities, and seniors.

Change Research conducted a “message testing” survey instead of a “public opinion poll.” The results of their survey do not measure public opinion on Intro 1378.

  •  Message testing is used by political campaigns to test public reaction to a variety of talking points to see if a communication strategy is likely to work. It does not measure “public opinion” as it exists now but rather voter reactions to a series of positive statements.

  • A public-opinion poll is a poll taken by sampling a cross section of the public in an effort to estimate public attitudes on issues.

  • Change Research conducted a message testing survey, not a public-opinion poll. The survey biased respondents with factually incorrect and misleading pro-foie gras talking points prior to surveying their level of support or opposition for Intro 1378. The talking points used to influence respondent’s opposition to Intro 1378 have been refuted and the results cannot be seen as a measure of the public’s opinion on this bill.

The Change Research survey questions are misleading, biased, and inaccurately describes Intro 1378.

  • The key question surveyed, asked: “There is a proposal in the City Council to ban the sale of foie gras and other duck products in New York City. Do you support or oppose this?”

    • Intro 1378 prohibits the sale of “any force-fed product” which is defined as “any product that is the result of force-feeding a bird with the intent to fatten or enlarge the bird’s liver.”

    • The survey is indisputably null and void for the simple reason that the question surveyed fails to include the term “force-fed” which is a vital part of the legislation. Foie gras from non-force-fed birds would not be covered by this bill. The failure to include “force-fed” is an egregious mischaracterization of Intro 1378 and the results cannot be seen as an accurate reflection of public opinion.

  • The survey inaccurately states that the proposed bill would “ban the sale of foie gras and other duck products.” This is incorrect and misleading. The bill would only prohibit the sale of foie gras from force-fed birds. The proposal does not include nor would it prohibit the sale of “other duck products.”

Despite the survey having been conducted by a less than reputable polling company, the survey questions being factually incorrect and misleading, and 25% of respondents did not even complete the survey, the results still favor banning the sale of foie gras. The foie gras industry has interpreted the date from this survey in their favor, when the results, in fact, show otherwise:

  • Respondents when provided the following statements lean heavenly in favor of banning the sale of foie gras. Paraphrased below:

    • “According to French law, foie gras is the diseased liver of a duck or goose fattened by force-feeding corn with a feeding tube…painful force-feedings several times a day…thick pipe is rammed down their throats.” In response to this statement, 64% are “more likely to support the ban” versus 11% “more likely to oppose the ban.”

    • “The mortality rate of ducks is nine times greater than usual during the force-feeding period.” In response to this statement, 57% are “more likely to support the ban” versus 12% “more likely to oppose the ban.”

  • 73% of those surveyed agree that the New York City Council should play a role in what food are allowed to be served in restaurants.

  • 88% of those surveyed have not eat foie gras in the last two years.

  • The Change Research survey results initially found a 11-point lead in favor of banning the sale of foie gras prior to being exposed to pro-foie gras talking points.