For example, the pollsters, UW political science professors Matt Barreto and Christopher Parker, asked if voters agreed or disagreed with this statement: "Most people in America don't realize how much our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places." (23.2 percent strongly agreed and 20.6 percent strongly disagreed.)
Parker tells me the question was part of a battery of questions exploring a concept he and Barreto laid out in their book Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, which identifies a distinct and consistent political demographic throughout American history—Tea Partiers today, John Birchers in the early 1960s, America Firsters in the 1930s, the Know Nothings in the 19th Century, for example—called "Reactionary Conservatism."
Parker says the questions in the poll (overlapped with the more topical questions at the beginning of the poll) are part of his research into further identifying this unique brand of politics by separating out reactionary conservatives' opinions from opinions of other demographic groups on basic policy issues.
"I am afraid there isn't going to be as much freedom for real Americans as time goes on."
The three components of reactionary conservatives he says are conspiracy theories, idealizing the past, and ethnocentrism. Parker says reactionary conservatives are predominantly white, male, middle class (or slightly richer than middle class), older, straight, Christian, and native born.
The pollsters continued trying to tap into this group with test statements such as: "I often feel that the really important matters in America are decided by people we never hear about." (38 percent of voters strongly agreed.)
And this: "I am afraid there isn't going to be as much freedom for real Americans as time goes on." (34.1 percent strongly agreed.)
And this: "There are forces in American society that may be changing the country for the worse." (43.2 percent agreed. And—the ivory tower profs at UW found what they were looking for?—51.9 percent in Eastern Washington agreed vs. 40.1 percent in the Puget Sound and 42.8 in the rest of the state.)
There are also several questions on the poll about immigration and race. For example: "Do you think discrimination in voting is mostly a thing of the past and does not need further action by Congress?" (51.6 percent said it "Remains a problem today.) And on immigrants: "As soon as immigrants arrive here they try to bring America down by refusing to abide by our laws." Those who strongly disagreed (41.7 percent) trounced those who strongly agreed (12.4 percent).
There was also a question about the relevance of Ferguson. And this: "Regardless of what some people say, racial background has no bearing on who can be a real American." 56 percent (54.5 in the Puget Sound, 51.7 percent in Eastern Washington and 62.7 percent in the rest of the state) agreed with that statement.
The parade of curious questions concluded by asking the respondent to guess the race of the interviewer. 33.5 percent of people, the largest group, didn't know. 30.2 percent guessed white. This question, Parker explained, was to provide quality control on the answers because, for example, a white person might answer a question about race differently if they think they're talking to a Latino.
Footnote: My personal favorite moment in the poll, though, was this finding: 7.1 percent of Washington voters (Zen masters?) have "No opinion" of Hillary Clinton. And they were only to be outdone (on the path toward enlightenment and bliss) by the special few, 0.2 percent, who have "Never heard of" Hillary Clinton.