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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!

As Mark Twain said: 'There are three kinds of lies- Lies, Damned Lies and STATISTICS!'

That brings us to the latest Presidential Preference Poll from GALLUP. The poll of American 'Republican Voters' (whatever THAT means!) shows Mitt Romney Leading with 17%, Sarah Palin (who's not even RUNNING) with 15%, Ron Paul with 10%, Gingrich with 9% and Cain with 8%. Yet most stories in the MSM almost WORD-for-WORD say the same thing- 'HERMAN CAIN tied for THIRD!' Huh? I may only have a College edumication, but I'm pretty sure 10% is bigger than 8 or 9%, and third-place is a better showing than fifth place! You should also be suspicious of stories that read like the writer used crib-notes from Media Matters talking points.

There are many criticisms of polling and polls, about their accuracy and sampling sizes being too small. But I disagree on that point. Having worked for years in a field that extensively uses polling and surveys to make business decisions, there is something to be said about 'statistically relevant sampling'. And yes, 971 people (as this poll used) would tend to be a good number- but ONLY IF the sample audience was statistically diverse enough. Therein lies the problem with most polls conducted these days. Most major polls are currently done through land-line phones, skewing the demographic heavily older, less educated and poorer. This method also excludes cell phone users, which eliminates the younger, more educated and more financially successful demographics. Also 'Registered Republicans', 'Likely Republican Voters' and 'Those who voted Republican in the last Pres Election' will skew the sample HEAVILY toward party establishment types, ignoring anyone who may be ELIGIBLE to vote in the GOP primaries or caucuses, but who doesn't fit the categories' definitions. Basically, in polling you get what you pay for. If I paid a pollster who knew I supported Pink Elephant for President, you can bet that 'Pink Elephant' would make a 'statistically significant' showing in the poll!

Bottom line- Polls are only good for telling you what OTHER people think! What SHOULD be important is what YOU think. This isn't about picking the prom queen or class president. It's about the Presidency of The United States of America. Do your OWN research. Listen to arguments pro and con from ALL sides of the political spectrum. Use your critical thinking skills to make an informed decision on what's best for you, personally, and what's best for the country. Don't rely on the Carnival-Barker Pollsters and pundits, who tell you to vote for Candidate XYZ because your neighbor is voting for them. That's how we got the current occupant of the White House. And THAT's not working out too good...

Thaddeus S. Kaczor, Jr.

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