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October 30, 2005

Main Points - It Ain't Necessarily So Ch 6

"...the answers pollsters receive (and newspapers report) greatly depend on precisely what the pollsters ask and how they ask it." (98)

This is one of the most important points of the chapter. Everything from the order of the questions, to the way the questions are worded can affect the outcome of any poll. Context is also key.

"Context is all...you also need to know what the respondents were primed to think about before the question was asked." (104)

Another problem that Chapter 6 mentions is the idea that people don't like to admit when they are ignorant or "out of the loop." This is something my AP Government class talked about when we discussed polls in the media. (Although, our polls generally had to do with government and politics, not really science, so they were a bit different.) We talked about a survey (ironic I know) that was done door to door, (I think through a university) to ask people how they felt about a certain bill that was currently being discussed in Congress. The thing is, the bill was made up. It didn't really exist. But there were still people who answered that they were for it and there were people who said they were against it. Apparently very few people admitted they didn't really know what the bill was.

"The most informative coverage of surveys, in short, will include a range of reactions...And the results should always be compared with results from other surveys on the same subject...no poll is an island, so it should not be examined in isolation from previous polls that are relevant." (107)

All of these are important when looking at a report covering a poll. As informed consumers, we should always look out for these possibilities when dealing with polls in any media.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at October 30, 2005 9:02 AM

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