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Is It Not Clear That We Don't Want Ambiguity?

"In short, even when tendentiousness is not at issue, lack of clarity may be. Again, you need to know what the question is before you can interpret its answer."

In chapter 6 of IANS I had the lightbulb go off in my head. Little things matter when it comes to EVERYTHING! Getting right down to it, the two things I found most interesting where how the actual survey question and the technique of how it was asked made such a large impact on the result.

With the example of reporst of child abuse dropping 50% from 1975 to 1985, the type of survey changed from interviewing in person and on the phone, therefore the answers actual have different varibles. If they were the same interviewing process the survey would be more accurate. Also like in the cause of denying the Holocaust, the ambiguous double negative surveyed question confused the people, significantly changing the responses. After the question was corrected the numbers decreased and made a HUGE difference.

The quote I chose says it all, you cannot trust the survey statistics until you know what the question was. I feel that in many cases with deadlines and tight schedules journalists may overlook something this "small". We must be interested in the question just as much as we are interested in the publics opinion. Because without one, you can't have the other!!!


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Comments (2)

Jeremy Barrick:

A questions that answers somekind of poll should never be foggy or too small. Be thorough and remember that the "small" things involved make up the large things. Do not omit them. I feel that news and polls are like ants, they are everywhere, we, humans, can watch where we step or step right on those little critters, walking away as if nothing happened.

I completely agree with looking at the process of how to understand the results. One has to be able to understand the methods and the process before one can make judgments on the results.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 24, 2007 2:47 PM.

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