Posts about polling

Open-source polling

The Times today reports on YouGov, the online polling company that has grown big in the UK (big enough for its founder, Stephan Shakespeare, to fund conservative online talk network 18DoughtySt to the tune of $2 million). It’s a sensible model: rather than polling the way pollsters have since the 1940s, online panels are used. The proof is in the predictions; if the data is good, why not gather it a new way?

But I think this should get opened up further. Two years ago, I wrote a post begging for someone to start an open-source polling operation: the wikipedia of polls. It would have controls against manipulation that enforce reliability — again, the proof is in the predictions. But it’s god’s work, for polling is too expensive and too limited to the powerful who want to ask their questions and too inaccurate about what we really care about. I say that if we could easily poll people about, say, indecency, we could counter the assertions of pressure groups that there’s an outcry — sufficient to threaten the First Amendment — when, in fact, there is no such outcry, only media spin and hype. Imagine if any of us could truly take the pulse of the nation or a community. That would have a positive impact on civil discourse and democracy — and commerce — and would be a counterweight to PR, political, and pressure-group spin.

Here, again, is my prescription for how I think it should be done. And here‘s an article by far-more-knowledgeable Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal with his prescription for open-source polling.

It is a war on terror and a long one

YouGov, an innovative polling company in the UK, surveys people in Britain after the foiled airline terror plot and finds:

* 73 percent believe we are in a war on terror: “Do you think that the West is in a global war against Islamic terrorists who threaten our way of life, or do you think that Islamic terrorism is a regional problem that poses no real threat to the West?” A vast majority goes for option 1.

* But 79 percent say we are not winning the war on terror. (No way to know whether the first person plural refers to the UK or the West, of course.)

* 14 percent say that Britain “should continue to align herself closely with the USA” on foreign policy; 45 percent say it should be closer to the EU; 27 percent say neither. Before you analyze this to mean that we should have a nicer foreign policy so those nasty terrorists don’t get mad at us and kill us, see this: Only 12 percent said that Britain should “change its foreign policy in response to the terrorist threat” by being “softer/ more conciliatory.” 53 percent said it should be “tougher/ more aggressive.” I leave it to you to define tough.

* A majority — 55 percent — favor profiling:” Passenger profiling is a recent term used to describe the process of selecting passengers based on their background or appearance. Would you like to see ‘passenger profiling’ introduced?” Only 29 percent said no.

* 69 percent want to detain terror suspects without charges for up to 90 days (a new law allows that there but only for 28 days).

* Do they think that Britis politicians “generally exaggerate the terrorist threat?” A plurality — 49 percent — said no. 12 percent said yes “because they are ill informed themselves” and 23 percent said yes “and they know that the truth is not as they portray it.”

* Do they feel safer than they did before 9/11? A tie: 46 percent yes and an equal number no.

* 86 percent believe it is fairly or very likely Britain will suffer another terrorist attack in the next year.

* 50 percent believe British Muslims are moderate; 28 percent believe they are not; the rest don’t know.

* 60 percent believe attacks from al Qaeda will get worse.

* Finally, how long do they believe the “conflict against Islamic terrorists such as Al-Q’aeda” will last? Less than a year: zero. 1-2 years: 2 percent. 3-5 years: 4 percent. 5-10 years: 12 percent. 10-20 years: 16 percent. More than 20 years: 44 percent.

[via The Guardian]

Open-source polling

The Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal, shares the article he wrote for Public Opinion Quarterly on open-source polling and the impact of the internet and blogs on polling.

Back in April, I wrote an amateurish call for open-source polling here.