Survey and Media Distortions

Greetings once again class. Those of you that know me personally (well, at least know me in person academically) will know I am a stickler for survey research being done correctly, and that correctly done surveys should be interpreted in the narrow way in which they are constructed. Those of you that have been reading my blog for a while may remember that I have a few times taken to task other sites, studies, or blogs, that have mis-represented information gathered from surveys (try here and here), or for that matter have just run roughshod over facts (here, and here) reaching conclusions simply from the long extension of their arm rather than the close reliance of reality (yeah-long way of saying they had to stretch to get there!)

Imagine my joy when I saw that one of my favorites blogs, the Language Log, decided to tackle another mis-reported survey. Of course, this one is particularly juicy since the log-ers are chastising the press for getting it wrong in reporting about how stupid the American people are. Perhaps the best point made is after listing the question asking people essentially to name the freedoms of the first amendment. In critiquing the analysis they write: “If you’re hip to the rhetoric of survey spin, you’ll guess at this point that the survey asked people to enumerate first-amendment rights by free recall.”
Yup, they could stop there, but they don’t! They then go on to mention how challenging that sort of question is. Asking someone to list off something very specific without any hints is quite difficult. Remember essay questions in school? The dreaded “What are 3 of the freedoms identified in the First Amendment, and explain the circumstances that caused their specific addition to the Bill of Rights?” (Actually, when you think about it, this particular essay question is replete with hints!)

Cheers for the Language Log!
Now, for what for me was truly ironic. Many of you remember the gracious treatment I received from the (apparent) owner of the A Liberal Dose blog (go back if you wish and read his witty comments, if your foul language detector is appropriately in place!) Well, not only is the author of that blog a great distorter of facts (or perhaps, just a tremendous prevaricator) he is a great distorter of images. To see what I am writing about, just go see the posting for Memorial Day weekend. As they say, context is everything. In this instance, we are provided a caption, and a picture of the President smiling. Of course, we are to quickly conclude the President may well have expressed deep remorse but by his smile, he must not have “meant it.” Hmmmm… Was the picture taken at the same time as the statement? (or even within seconds, or a minute?) Was the picture taken before the speech began? Who was the President looking at while smiling? (In the interest of fairness, this is the same sort of gross mis-representation that Rush Limbaugh did with the video of President Clinton laughing when leaving following the funeral of his former Secretary of Transportation. Of course, in THAT case the clip showed Clinton crying, laughing and then crying again, in the span of 10 seconds…)
As you can see, the picture doesn’t actually convey anything other than a man who can, at times, be quite “warm” most likely to a person in the crowd. It is mis-representations like this that lead one to conclude that “A Liberal Dose” is a person with an agenda, and perhaps not much else.
But that’s alright.
To steal from an old “Greyhound Busline” commercial “Just relax, and leave the thinking to us!”
The Prof

12 thoughts on “Survey and Media Distortions

  • Once again the “Professor” finds my postings too threatening to his warped conservative ideology and thus feels compelled to “set the record straight” >sicsic

  • INCONCEIVABLE! When I read New American Patriot’s rebuttle to The Prof’s blog, I can’t help but read it in the voice from Vizzini from The Princess Bride (You remember him – with the speech impediment and the poison, COME ON!)…With that being said I will go back to reading the blog and comment.

  • I don’t want to make light of a really important blog. There is a flu running around that includes explosive, well, “number 2” – maybe The Pres. has a smirk because he just farted. OK Seriously, I am really impressed with your lack of bad words, N.A.P.

  • NAP. Thanks for your comments, and as you will note once again, I allow them, and leave them posted.

    ONE of us is actually committed to open dialogue and free speech.

    Now, on to your content. Interestingly, my only point in referencing your blog was to mention what I felt was the ironic juxtapositioning of my viewing. I viewed your blog, actually just before reading the Language Log, and found the contrasts amusing.

    As for having the students, or anyone else, check the facts, that is actually what I have them do! I also encourage all of you to read the source documents that are so often (mis)cited by folks, including you. Do you not remember your erroneous reporting of a flood of desertions, based on what in actuality is a 50% decline since the waning Clinton years?

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and apparently making my blog a regular stop on your daily routine. I mean, I am sure you don’t actually go around finding out who cites your blog, simply to attack them… or do you? LOL

  • OK, not to pile on NAP, but why not.
    New American Patriot said…
    Perhaps the words of the Washington Post might carry a little more weight than those of some obscure lone blogger expressing his personal point of view:

    The problem? While the link he posted takes you to a publication that is not obscure, it IS still a lone person’s personal point of view. Just because it is in the Pot doesn’t mean it is anything other than that person’s opinion. At least not when it is in their blog/oped section.

    NAP, you seem to have a real penchant for neglecting to read and comprehend the articles to which you link.

  • And to the anonymous apple polisher:

    That doesn’t even deserve to be dignified with an answer.

  • Anonymous

    New American Patriot said…
    And to the anonymous apple polisher:

    That doesn’t even deserve to be dignified with an answer.
    Apple Polisher here. The irony is, of course, that you have answered the comment yet you have not replied to the substance of the comment. That leads me to believe that you recognize that you are wrong and therefore unable to refute my comments, yet somehow feel the need to bluster.

    With regard to your other comments today on other posts here and here, are we to be generous and assume you are being sarcastic, responding to The Professor’s criticisms of you and your inability to respond with anything other than vulgarities with statements like “blah blah blah go fuck yourself blah” and expressing the desire “to boot him in the nuts”? No. Probably not.

  • A “great outpouring” relative to what? Greatness is a relative term. If one looks at the rate of desertions since 2000 one will find, simply, that the rate is nearly cut in half. (according to the original source, both of your information, and this dispute:

    In fact, the article says “At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.” (note, plunged–the correct use of a relative term, going from 3,949 in FY2000 to 2011 desertins in FY2005.)

    What is also included (and ignored) in the article was this:
    “Opposition to the war prompts a small fraction of desertions, says Army spokeswoman Maj. Elizabeth Robbins. ‘People always desert, and most do it because they don’t adapt well to the military,’ she says. The vast majority of desertions happen inside the USA, Robbins says. There is only one known case of desertion in Iraq.”

    What I still don’t understand is why, when I simply say that someone didn’t do their homework, they feel the need to “get all up in my grill” about it? Come on, what was so threatening to you by my simply linking to you? (Honestly–I don’t see why it bothers you so much.)

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