Living next door to a pit bull

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2009:
INDIANAPOLIS–An online poll conducted by WTHR-TV found 69%
community support for Indianapolis council member Mike Speedy’s
proposed At Risk Dogs ordinance, against 26% opposition and 5%
undecided.
The ordinance would require sterilizing pit bull terriers.
“1,988 people participated. With all of the critical
comments on the stories from pit bull fans, I’m surprised so many
voted in favor. Keep in mind our poll is not scientific, meaning it
would be easy to skew with coordinated effort,” said Sara Galer of
WTHR.


ANIMAL PEOPLE findings suggest that the WTHR results are
actually close to residual public opinion nationwide, and are unique
chiefly in attracting enough input to overcome attempts to skew it.
Uncontrolled online surveys similar to the WTHR poll often
follow local reportage of dog attack fatalities and disfigurements,
about 75% of which are inflicted by pit bulls and Rottweilers.
Monitoring such surveys, ANIMAL PEOPLE has observed that the initial
response usually skews heavily in favor of breed-specific
legislation, but after the first few dozen votes are recorded,
input tips abruptly the other way– unless the poll is quickly
closed. Organized response tends to come chiefly from opponents of
breed-specific legislation, but dog attack victims and their
families sometimes try to rally counter-response.
ANIMAL PEOPLE wondered if the usual early poll tilt in favor
of breed-specific legislation reflected residual opinion, likely to
be found in any survey at any time, or just reaction to local
incidents. Finding a definitive answer might require polling
thousands. But a tightly controlled small survey of people from
places where there have not been recent pit bull attacks or
legislative debate might provide clues.
ANIMAL PEOPLE surveyed several dozen volunteers from among
the membership of two professional societies having no direct
involvement with animal issues. The volunteers were not told in
advance what they would be asked about. They were asked only three
basic questions, but membership directory information permitted
tracking many biographical variables.
Except for having more formal education than most Americans,
the respondents in composite mirrored U.S. demographic norms,
including in urban/rural balance, geographic distribution, income
range, and response from visible minorities. More men responded
than women, reflective of the membership of the societies, so
proportional weighting was used to achieve gender balance.
68%, including 71% of the men and 62% of the women, agreed
that they would prefer not to live next door to a pit bull. 28%–29%
of the men but only 21% of the women–did not object to living next
door to a pit bull.
Four percent of the respondents had a pit bull, about equal
to the rate of keeping pit bulls in the general population. 76% of
respondents had pets, far above the U.S. norm of 57%; 24% had
children, all of whom also had pets; 24% had neither pets nor
children.
No men were undecided about living next to a pit bull, but
18% of the women were undecided, all of whom had pets but no
children living at home.
Among all respondents with pets, 69% would prefer not to
live next door to a pit bull. Among all respondents with children at
home, 80% would prefer not to live next door to a pit bull. Among
all respondents who had ever had children, 86% would prefer not to
live next door to a pit bull.

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