On leading/ loaded questions and response bias (or: David Cameron wants to know my views on immigration)

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I swear, I stated this blog to write about the practice of research, about how we can sociologically understand the world and to promote the latest interesting studies. NOT to pick on David Cameron.

Yet, just a week after writing about Voodoo Polls, while I was peacefully checking my Facebook…

facebook feedBlimey, so David Cameron wants me to click on his survey and tell him how I feel about immigration.

Now, kids, what was I saying last time?

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On “voodoo polls” and why we shouldn’t ever use them

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So, after writing about David Cameron’s shoddy use of statistics in the Telegraph and now the margin of error in one YouGov poll that might just have changed the fate of the referendum and what happens after, I found myself thinking a lot about how official statistics and opinion polls are being used and reported in the media, and what pitfalls lie there.

Today, for instance, i want to talk about the “voodoo poll”, so called because it’s about as scientific as voodoo (and presumably because for the serious researcher seeing it reported as a serious poll in the media feels like a stab in the heart from a distance).

voodoo-doll-miles-woods(via)

A “voodoo poll”, or open access poll, is one where a non-probability sample of participants self-select into participation.

In human language: sampling is the use of a subset of the population to represent the whole population. In probability sampling (random sampling), we have ways of calculating the probability of getting any particular sample, and therefore we can rigorously infer from the sample to the general population.In non-probability sampling, we do not; and therefore we need to use them with care.

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The 3% margin of error- and how it can change a political debate

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As I’m writing this post right now, we’ve been knowing for sure for several hours: with 55% of “no” votes, Scotland is staying in the UK. On a quick look at my Twitter feed, I’m getting a mixed bag of relief, celebration, introspection, ‘what next’ concern and that rant from Trainspotting (nsfw).

The one comment that caught my eye, however, came from Sussex Uni fellow Ben Stanley.

We surely do remember that YouGov poll:

Bw4KUBXCUAAHvJP(via)

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