Poll further confuses Bain Capital debate

June 8, 2012, 10:52 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Monmouth University has a new political poll out this morning, which finds that 42% of registered voters believe that “venture capital and private equity firms” are good for the economy. Another 22% said they were bad, while 16% said they had no impact.

Monmouth also finds that most voters believe such firms create jobs. The takeaway, according to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute: “For most American voters, venture capital is not a dirty word.”

Newsflash for Monmouth: No one ever said venture capital was a dirty word. Not even President Obama’s campaign at its anti-Bainiest.

Criticisms of Romney’s work — whatever their merit — are focused on his private equity efforts. You know, buying mature companies through the use of bank debt. No one begrudges him venture capital deals like Staples (well, except for mom-and-pop stationary store owners).

Monmouth’s Murray tells me that the two distinct asset classes were lumped together because earlier focus groups had found that most voters didn’t realize there was a difference, and that its goal was to judge the effectiveness of Obama’s Bain Capital attacks. Weak tea.

I’m not suggesting that it’s a polling outfit’s job to educate the ignorant, but Monmouth had to know that its findings would be repeated in the mainstream political media. And, when it happened, that the venture capital/private equity conflation would be repeated, thus helping to further spread misinformation.

If Monmouth really just wanted to know how Obama’s Bain Capital attacks were playing, why not ask about Bain Capital?

When it comes to political polls, people always say that the answers depend on how the question is worded. In this case, the words were irresponsible, leading to largely worthless results.

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