Search This Blog

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dubious Polling Awards

Our chapter on public opinion discusses problems with survey research and errors in polling.  At iMedia Ethics, David W. Moore gives out "dubious polling awards."  A couple of examples:
10. Goldilocks and Three Bears Award – to Pew, Gallup and Rasmussen
Like Goldilocks tasting the porridge – one that was too hot, another too cold, and the third just right – Pew, Gallup and Rasmussen have provided us with three quite different views of the public on immigration reform. Should there be a new law that would give a chance to immigrants, currently living in the United States illegally, to apply for U.S. citizenship?

Rasmussen -- Definitely not! (65%)
Gallup – Definitely yes! (65%)
Pew – Maybe yes, maybe no! (43%, 51%)
Of course, different questions provide different results. But do upwards of 80% of Americans really have a meaningful opinion on the issue as Rasmussen, Gallup and Pew indicate? An iMediaEthics poll suggests not – anywhere from a third to half the public is unengaged, with the rest either evenly divided or leaning slightly toward citizenship.

9. The Paranoia Award – to Talking Points Memo
A Fairleigh Dickinson poll last year apparently scared the daylights out of Talking Points Memo (TPM). The poll reported that 29% of voters agreed with the statement that “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary to protect our liberties.”
TPM called the results “staggering” and noted that they “serve as a reminder that Americans’ deeply held beliefs about gun rights have a tendency to cross over into outright conspiracy theories about a nefarious government seeking to trample their constitutional rights – paranoia that pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association have at times helped stoke.”
Relax, people! Poll respondents agree to statements like that for all sorts of reasons, often because it’s a way to express frustration without having to really do anything. Besides, the question doesn’t specify who the revolution will be against – Government? Corporations? Gun owners?