The Politically Incorrect Mom


Friday, September 09, 2005

More Than Half of Whose Country?

The Associated Press released poll results today regarding whether or not Americans believe New Orleans should be rebuilt. Their opening statement in the article was,

“More than half the people in this country say
the flooded areas of New Orleans lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground”.

Can I just say that the media has become way too big for their britches when it comes to polling. “More than half the people in this country” is an outlandish statement. The poll included 1,002 adults who weren’t smart enough to know how to avoid a poll. This nation has a population of nearly 300 million people! The opinion of 1/600,000th of the nation is hardly basis for a statement to that effect. According to Wikipedia, 78% of our nation’s population would fall into the category of “adult” (although they use the age 15 and up). Polls being used in this way are out of control and account for a lot of misinformation and misguided decisions.

There was a day when the media wasn’t allowed to “speak for the masses” based on a poll. The news had to back up their claims with hard data. I guess that’s no longer the case. What bothers me about things like this is that I am reminded daily of the number of idiots I am surrounded by. There are a LOT of people who take the media at their word, which is why I get so disturbed when celebrities get on their political soap boxes, because there are so many people who believe everything they hear coming out of the mouth of….oh, let’s just use Oprah as an example, who never actually consider that she is just a regular person expressing her opinion. The fact that she is filthy stinking rich doesn’t make her any more “in the know” or “correct” than anyone else who has the brains to make a decision for themselves based on their convictions.

Now, don’t anybody bite my head off – I’m not picking on Oprah. I know she does a lot of nice things for people, blah, blah, blah…

As for the rest of the AP article:

”An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the four-fifths of New Orleans that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina moved to a safer location.”

Ok – you can’t MOVE New Orleans to a “safer location”. If you MOVE New Orleans, guess what??? It’s not New Orleans anymore. It’s some place else! Regardless of how idiotic it is to build/rebuild a city that is below sea level – it’s been there since 1718 and is the home of 1.3 million people. It’s more idiotic to say, “let’s just not go back there. We’ll make a NEW New Orleans somewhere else”. And by the way….WHERE?

“Their skepticism about restoring New Orleans below sea level comes as the public mood has darkened after one of the nation's worst natural disasters.”

Which tells us that nobody has really ever given the idea any serious thought before now. I wonder how many people in the poll are from the Greater New Orleans area? Oh that’s right….NONE….they don’t have telemarketing polls at shelters!

As for “abandoning” the low lying areas of New Orleans. Who are they kidding? Even if that was the decision, they would hardly be abandoned. There are somewhere between 5,000-10,000 people still in New Orleans who have refused to leave and are being forced out (something that should have happened on August 26th or 27th). Tell them they can’t go back. Tell them they have to abandon their neighborhood. Those folks will be back there chaining themselves to their doorposts as soon as the water is dried up. Once the shelters are closed (unless we’re planning on keeping Katrina shelter’s open for the next 50 years), many of those folks will have nowhere to go but back.

“Almost two-thirds, 65 percent, say the country is headed in the wrong direction — up from 59 percent last month.”

Did you notice the shift from rebuilding New Orleans to how unhappy people are with their country?? Pretty slick, eh? Read on…

“President Bush's job approval was at 39 percent, the lowest point since AP-Ipsos began measuring public approval of Bush in December 2003.”

Would this article have been just as readable and “informative” (albeit based on scewed statistics) without the dig on President Bush?

“Two-thirds of those surveyed say the federal government was not adequately prepared to respond to the disaster. And about the same number said the state and local governments deserve much of the blame for the slow response.”

Ya’all know how I feel about this! The Federal Government should not have to be prepared to respond – that’s why we have STATE Governments. It’s the Federal Government’s job to protect us from terrorists, other countries and the boogie man. It’s the State Government’s job to protect us from natural disasters and the monster under the bed.

“Despite their gloomy mood, people are donating to hurricane victims at record levels. Almost two-thirds in the poll say they have already given money.”

Ok, so more people in the poll said they had given money to help relief efforts than admitted to being pleased with the President. I’m so shocked! NOT.

“The poll of 1,002 adults was taken Sept. 6-8 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.”

If anyone knows where they come up with the data to back up their “margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points”. Please do tell. How is the margin of error determined? Is there a formula? Is it anything like the formula they used when they decided that 1,002 adults represented the opinion of the entire adult population of the United States?

Stupidity should be painful.


  • At 1:58 PM, September 09, 2005, Anonymous Fellow Pennsylvanian said…

    I stumbled upon your blog and discovered that you were questioning the mathematical dynamics of statistical analysis in opinion polls. Well the science of statistics is often confusing, but very useful once you get the hang of it!

    Here is a quick link to the Wikipedia explination of margin of error in public opinion polls. In no way does it enter into the mathematic intricacies of how margins of error are calculated. Rather it tends to simply explain that they are calculable. If you are really interested in this, I am sure there are some college courses available that would be really interesting.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know generally 1,000 to 1,500 people is enough to get a fairly accurate sample of the population of the U.S. despite your opinion to the contrary.

    I hope this helps, and keep on blogging! Oh and by the way, you are right when you say that stupidity should be painful. Though perhaps not as painful as arrogant ignorance!

    P.S. PA rules!

  • At 2:44 PM, September 09, 2005, Blogger P.I. Mom said…

    Actually, one of the main focuses of my job is to calculate statistics. I am aware that margins of error are calculable in a number of different ways, many of which are unreliable. I would like to know what, if any, forumla they are using, or if they have fallen into the category of the Rasmussen Poll, which as of a few years ago was not recalculating the margin of error for each individual poll. I also know that research can be accidentally or intentionally biased when it is conducted. More commonly, even if the study itself is entirely trustworthy, the media generally report only the findings that suit their current focus. This can lead to an incomplete understanding of the data, or even total inaccuracies, which I believe has happened in this case. While 1000-1500 people may be a reasonable basis for some polls, I would suggest that number to be way too low to calculate what "more than half" of the American public is thinking right now. You have to use a base number that is relative to the whole. That's why when you poll a classroom, you don't ask just two people.
    Additionally, depending on how they gathered their information, the people polled may not be an appropriate selection. If the poll was done via the internet - there is no way of knowing if the participants are adults or even American for that matter. My point was the the usefulness of polling is outweighed by the potential flaws and should not be represented as FACTUAL information by the media.
    Thanks for your input. I'm sorry you misunderstood my request for input on the AP's polling methods as an inability to understand/analyze statistics.


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