17 August 2008

Why One Should NOT Take Unscientific Polls Seriously

In a recent poll in what we'll term charitably as a socially conservative online "news" site, it appeared that Canadians overwhelmingly supported the return of capital punishment. In another similar Internet based publication, the poll numbers supported ending immigration to Canada from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. These unscientific polls were posted in light of the horrific tragedy in Manitoba when Vince Weiguang Li murdered Tim McLean.

Given the readership of these particular sites, it's no wonder that the numbers supported the very positions that the online publication supported. Imagine a poll on Free Dominion asking which of the major political parties should win the next Federal election. If the Liberals or NDP receive so much as 1% of the vote we'd be surprised.

This push polling isn't consigned to the fringe right or left. Have you ever looked at a poll on "The Globe and Mail" and become mystified by how Canadians voted in the unscientific poll, as it was counterintuitive to everything we know about the social conscious of the country? Well, we can thank, in part, the Internet for that as well.

For a number of years, one of our members has been on the mailing list of a hard right evangelical who is pretty friendly and on a first name bases with the bigwigs of Canada's Christian right. Now, our member did not even seek out membership in this mailing list, but he decided to stick with it as it did, and does, provide an interesting look at the mindset of right wing Christians. in their effort to shape public debate.

One of the things the person who created the mailing list does is to send out links to online polls in an effort to swing the vote in their favour. Here are two such efforts:



Fw: PLEASE VOTE YES RIGHT AWAY IN THIS POLL WHICH MAY CLOSE ANYTIME‏
From: Robert A. Jason (bobeva@*******.com)
Sent: August 13, 2008 1:14:05 AM
To: ;
From: Robert A. Jason
To: RJ
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 9:06 PM
Subject: PLEASE VOTE YES RIGHT AWAY IN THIS POLL WHICH MAY CLOSE ANYTIME
Please vote YES in support of Harper government stopping the tax-payer funding of trash produced by "artists" working overseas.

Fw: PLEASE VOTE NO TO INSITE, THE LIBERAL SOCIAL EXPERIEMENT THAT DOESN'T WORK‏
From: Robert A. Jason (bobeva@*******.com)
Sent: August 12, 2008 8:26:10 PM
To: ;
----- Original Message -----
From: Robert A. Jason
To: RJ
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 4:15 PM
Subject: PLEASE VOTE NO TO INSITE, THE LIBERAL SOCIAL EXPERIEMENT THAT DOESN'T WORK
PLEASE VOTE NO TO INSITE,
THE LIBERAL SOCIAL EXPERIEMENT THAT DOESN'T WORK
The liberal Vancouver Sun, of course, strongly supports Insite, the liberal social experiment in Vancouver that encourages drug addicts to shoot up at this supervised injection site...the Harper government in Ottawa is strongly opposed to this program...it rightly believes that it promotes harm & addiction, rather than harm reduction.

There is an on-line poll asking the public whether they support or reject Insite. Please visit
www.vancouversun.com/editorial and please vote NO. Right now we are losing. Please do your utmost to change that vote.
Thank you.

Now don't get us wrong. They have every right to try and influence public debate and perceptions, even if by somewhat shady means. We just want people to be aware of what they're doing (though we suspect that most people have already clued in by now) and to view these unscientific polls in a critical light.

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