Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's only fair

Does the word 'fair' mean good or bad? What about if you modify it with the word 'only'?

This Harris Poll, picked up by the Wall Street Journal, counts the word "fair" as negative, so that 22% of respondents who answered "only fair" to the question, "Overall, how would you rate the job President Bush has done in handling the issue of Iraq over the last several months?" get added to the 45% who rated President Bush's job "poor" for a net negative of 67%.

If you added the 22% of respondents who rated President Bush's job in Iraq as "only fair" to those who responded "excellent," 7%, and "pretty good," 23%, you'd have a net positive of 52%, instead of what was reported as a net positive of 30%, and a net negative of 45%, instead of the net negative of 67% that the Harris Poll reported.

Are the Harris Pollsters being fair?



Blogger Dana said...

Besides which, wouldn't they need to define their terms? What constitutes, 'fair', 'poor', or 'stupendous'? Nebulousness makes for inaccuracy or misrepresentation...

btw, glad to see you back. Was beginning to wonder if it was the tiarra matter - but really, I needed it more than you this weekend!

1:23 PM  
Blogger Mike LaRoche said...

I think that the release of poll after poll shows how lazy much of the mainstream media has become. It's a way to manufacture news, rather than research and report it.

Furthermore, as anyone with experience in any social science field will tell you, polls can be notoriously unreliable. If you look at academic journals that use statistical models (e.g. the American Political Science Review), the raw data is usually several years old because it takes an enormous amount of time to sift through the data and "clean it up" - something necessary if any solid conclusions are to be drawn from said data.

Sorry for the long rant, but the abuse of polls is something that has irritated me for quite some time.

12:05 AM  
Blogger kcatmull said...

hey so I do this for a living! And considering "only fair" (not fair by itself) as a mild negative, to be added with "poor" to get th overall negative, is absolutely standard in the industry, fyi. That doesn't necessarily make it right of course, and I am not educated enough about the reasons behind that usage to explain them, but it is not just this one crazy poll -- it's been standard for at least the 15 years I've been doing it.

As I understand it, it has to do with the fact that people don't like to express negative opinions. For whatever that's worth. For example, we also have a rule of thumb with our own clients to double their negative rating, for the same reason. You want your positive-negative ratio to be at least two-to-one, in other words (or even, once the negative is doubled). If it's not at least that, then you, Mr or Ms Elected Official, need to worry.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Hey--thanks for your insider insight.

11:25 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home