More Attacks on Bad Surveys

I know, I know, I can’t stay away from this topic. Any wonder why though? We not only have sites like “A Liberal Dose” mis-citing accurate statistics1 we also have, as The Numbers Guy points out, bad surveys and polls being conducted.
Again, many of you will remember my discussions (here and elsewhere) on the importance of carefully developed question development as well as care in interpreting and drawing conclusions, without over-reaching. While I have recently criticized the interpretation of published results, The Numbers Guy in his article points out that the American Association for Public Opinion Research is tackling the problem of poor surveys making it into the media–and the media unquestioningly accepting the results.
Two relevant quotes:

Faulty survey data takes many forms. Sometimes the questions are loaded, as with a survey about online gambling I wrote about in April. Other surveys have very low response rates, like a poll about the value of mothers’ work; or pollsters don’t disclose all of their questions nor results, raising fears they’ve cherry-picked those responses that reflect best on the polls’ sponsors. Also, many polls you may read about have been conducted online, usually among a panel of volunteers lured by online ads — considered a less-representative sample by most pollsters than respondents who are found by random-digit telephone dialing.


Polls with pitfalls shouldn’t be discarded automatically. But often they are accepted automatically by the press and rendered indistinguishable from polls conducted by more standard means.

So there you have it. More criticisms of bad polling, bad data, and blind acceptance. And from a reputable source, to boot!
The Prof
1. And most recently in a fit of “hyper-‘bowl’-e” misrepresenting students’ putting marijuana in muffins as “spiking a punch bowl,” two very different things, to be sure!


16 thoughts on “More Attacks on Bad Surveys

  1. My God, man.

    Do, please, learn how to pronounce polysyllabic words like “hyperbole” before trying so transparently to impress readers with your appalling mangling of the English language.

  2. Nor have I cited any statistics incorrectly in any way, shape or form; I’ve simply linked to original posts in the British national press. But good try there, Sparky.

    Perhaps some unfortunate, starry-eyed young freshman will go weak at the knees in awe of your superhuman perceptiveness, but somehow I doubt it.

    Say, do you have one of those stylin’ soul patches? Or sideburns?

    Bet you’re quite the ladies’ man.


  3. For the record students:

    I’ll grant your professor one point: he’s indeed right that putting marijuana in food and putting alcohol in a drink are two different things.

    The alcohol is much, much more dangerous and addictive.

    Don’t buy his lies. I see he refers to gospel music. The REAL Jesus preached peace, mercy, universal brotherhood, an absolute rejection of material wealth and a clear, unequivocal duty to care for the environment, the poor, the elderly and the infirm.

    What the Bush Administration is doing in EVERY respect (and what your professor apparently advocates) is DIRECTLY, 180 DEGREES COUNTER to EVERY VALUE which Christ taught.

    Jesus was a rebel.

    Jesus was a protestor.

    Jesus was an activist, a socialist, a pacifist and a liberal.

    Question auhority.

    Jesus did.

  4. Thank you for your comments. I am sorry to see that, in your rage induced response, you seem to have lost not only your sense of reason but your sense of humor.

    Shall I explain? Hyperbole is of course an exageration used to make a point. I then mispelled it, pointing to your comment about spiking punch since punch is most often placed in a “bowl” and hence, Hyper-Bowl-e. (I had assumed you meant to downplay the impact of spiking muffins with marijuana by using the hyperbole–er exageration, if you will–of comparing it to just spiking punch at a dance.)

    Oh, and once again, I continue to allow posting of comments on my blog. Perhaps you would consider the same? Or do opposing ideas threaten you?

  5. I have to attack the character of NAP at this point.

    NAP – There is no reason for you to critisize spelling when the only words you can think to spell in many situations are fowl and obnoxious. Cocksucker, buffoon…Your word choices point out a lack of intelligence and your chosen manglelation (new word – just made it up!! noun) of the English language should prevent you from assualting our eyes with rhetoric consisting of the blatent misuse of the Prof’s blogs. BTW, I posted on your link about Prof Steve Brady. I dare you to approve it!

    Prof, I read the “bowl” – very witty of you…

    *starry eyed*

  6. A survey is only as accurate as the one conducting it wants it to be. Any survey can be tweaked….so, take it with a grain of salt.

  7. Hey:

    You have an absolutely valid point. I’d be perfectly willing to do so, but do have a quick look at his original posting, in which, using me as an example of “media distortions”, he says (in somewhat convoluted terms) I’m stupid, and worse, I didn’t bother to read the story I cited, which is both ridiculous and insulting. As I tried initially to point out, the fact that there have been floods of desertions IN THE PAST in no way lessens the fact that there has been a flood of desertions from THIS conflict – 8,000 according to the USA Today story originally cited.

    cute little post

    “This particular blog reminds me of some of the worst writings I have seen in class. Students will do anything to get a point across in their papers, and will cite things that don’t actually argue what the student portrays it to be arguing. Unfortunately, I have actually seen articles submitted by academics for peer reviewed journals, where the authors misrepresent the argument put forward in a cited work. This is a classic point in case.

    Hmmmm… I must admit, because of the errors on this one page, and how easy it is for someone to quickly check the facts by actually reading the sources cited, I found myself wondering if this blogger is actually a conservative make a veiled attempt at making liberals look stupid. Hey, it’s either that, or… So students, learn a valuable lesson. Before you cite something, read it.”

    Brady “teaches” dangerous distortions to his students, characterizing liberals and leftists as “screaming” “crazy” “stupid”, “whining”, “liars” and manipulative fearmongers.

    A few choice quotes:

    “Liberals are trying to “steal” elections the old fashioned way. Lying and scaring the electorate. Popularizing crazy conspiracy theories. Making people feel fear, rage, and hopelessness. And then, getting people to vote for them based on irrational fear.”

    And then there’s this very creepy post “Voters like to be monitored” (, in which he says:

    “Yup. The left likes to whine and complain about the Republicans and the Right. They like to scream about individual rights, but put their own lives at risk and they give up those rights faster than Kennedy grabs a whisky bottle.

    “…reports are that the city, a city (like so many other cities around the nation) dominated by the left and the Democrats, has voted overwhelmingly to allow video surveillance.”

    He thus asserts that 63,597 supporters of video surveillance (none of whose party affiliation is even vaguely mentioned)

    out of the city’s 1,517,550 residents can somehow be extrapolated to represent America’s 142 million voters.

    Were Brady just some private citizen spouting his views, that would be fine, but he’s in a position of great responsibility, representing his personal propaganda as fact to his students, who are very naturally inclined to believe what he says to be truth.

    And presenting American politics as a polarized extreme left vs. extreme right is disingenuous at best, and downright manipulative at worst:

    Either A) he’s repeatedly, deliberately lying to his students or B) he can’t honestly see the truth himself. — Neither possibility inspires confidence.

    In fact, American voters comprise at least 123 official political parties.

    As to election fraud, I implore you to avail yourself of the free resources on the Internet:

    I suggest you see for yourself the video of the “Brooks Brothers rioters” Bush appointed to cabinet positions, who were flown in by Bush’s campaign team to tear up voter ballots and forcibly stop the recount of votes that ultimately led to Bush’s being appointed to the White House by the Supreme Court:

    Or the videotaped sworn Congressional testimony of programmer Clint Curtis, who swore in an affidavit that he’d been asked by Republican Congressman Tom Feeney to write the voting machine program that would SWITCH ELECTRONIC VOTES and then BURY ITSELF

    You can read the internal company emails from voting machine manufacturer Diebold about how thousands of Presidential election votes were “disappeared”
    and their discussion of how to hide it from state regulators. Not to mention the “backdoors” that allow paperless voting machines to be secretly hacked in under two minutes in the free book ( “Black Box Voting” and elsewhere.(

    Electronic vote theft is very real and threatens to destroy the very thing which has made America geopolitically influential and unique — its diversty of voices, and the power of its electorate.

    Question everything Brady says. You cannot trust what he tells you.

    Find out for youself.

  8. I appreciate your time spent here, Eric. I even appreciate that you have taken the time to read through (and cherry pick) my postings.

    I will continue to encourage all the dear “students” that visit here to read the sources you cite. You do seem to have either a comprehension problem, or a significant humor deficit.

    Go back and completely read my posts. Then read it again. Perhaps after a 3rd reading, you might actually realize that no sentence stands alone. That the document (yes, I will call it a document) is intended as a complete tapestry. That, while you can if you wish pull out single sentences to make your point, the articles, when read in their entirety, make a different (and yet apparently too subtle) point.

    For instance, you quote extensively from the article on the election in Philly. You then write that I somehow think that nearly 64,000 voters “out of the city’s 1,517,550 residents can somehow be extrapolated to represent America’s 142 million voters.”

    Apparently you skimmed over the part in paragraph three where I explicitly wrote: “Well, I for one wouldn’t want to extrapolate too far, or draw too many generalizable conclusions about these views from just one election, but I do find the situation in Philadelphia interesting.”

    Also, you conveniently restructured the paragraphs to make a different point than the one I was making. Okay… fine…

    And once again, on the desertions: The article makes it clear that, unlike your assertion in even this most recent tirade, the desertions are not “desertions from this conflict.” They are a consistent (and less than .24%) fact of military life.

    Oh, and just one more: You quoted from my posting where I wrote that liberals are trying to steal elections the “old fashioned way.” Did you read that whole posting with your humor sensor turned off? You even, conveniently, chose to delete what was intended as humor–and failed to include the elipse, designed to tell the reader that you have edited the work!! I would have thought you would have at least learned THAT in journalism school.

    The full quote, for the edification of the “students” is (with the edited out portion in brackets):

    “Yup, [that’s my theory, and I am sticking to it. ] Liberals are trying to “steal” elections the old fashioned way. Lying and scaring the electorate. Popularizing crazy conspiracy theories. Making people feel fear, rage, and hopelessness. And then, getting people to vote for them based on irrational fear. ”

    I then go on, with a sense of humor invoked, to write “I could be wrong. But it makes for a good story, and seems as plausible as any other. ”

    I would recommend that you lighten up, just a tad, Eric.

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