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Opinion: Why The Pool Poll Should Give Us Pause 03:11
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 (picture alliance/picture alliance via Getty Image)
(picture alliance/picture alliance via Getty Image)

The next time anyone reports the results of a poll or survey, even NPR, remember: A new survey says 51% of the adults in America splash around in swimming pools instead of showering or bathing.

Further results get even yuckier. Forty percent of American confess that they — how to put this delicately? — have voided in pools. Experts warn the resulting effluence reduces the antiseptic potency of the chlorine.

Dr. Chris Wiant, chair of the Water Quality & Health Council, says, "When dirt, sweat, personal care products, and other things on our bodies react with chlorine, there is less chlorine available to kill germs."

The results grow ickier still.

The Sachs Media Group conducted the survey of 3,100 people online. I think I would be reluctant to shake any of their hands.

The survey reassures people they can check pools in which they're about to paddle with test strips, thoughtfully available at no cost from the Water Quality & Health Council website, to see if the pools are adequately chlorinated.

A survey like this sounds compelling, doesn't it? It might spare millions of Americans from immersing themselves, head to toe, in feculence and exudation.

But Jessica Huseman, a reporter for ProPublica and adjunct professor at the Columbia Journalism School, says that although at least seven national news sites reported the story as some kind of revelation — Woodward and Bernstein Go Swimming, and What They Found Will Shock You! — she discovered by just a few quick clicks that the Water Quality & Health Council is sponsored by the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council.

That's a trade group for the chlorine industry. The chlorine industry must be as concerned about the rise of saltwater pools, which use less chlorine, as gas companies are about electric cars. Or as the Yankees are about the Red Sox.

You might recall this survey about America's showering choices when you see other polls on urgent issues — immigration, abortion, guns — especially if they're promoted by advocacy groups. Questions can be phrased in ways to tilt results the way a group wants. But professional pollsters who work with news organizations have an interest in offering surveys that illuminate the range of diverging views people can hold in a huge and varied country, regardless of results.

In the meantime — everybody into the pool!

Copyright NPR 2019.

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