Always good to see this in the news.....
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15-09-2015, 05:15 AM
RE: Always good to see this in the news.....
(14-09-2015 06:22 PM)cjlr Wrote:  
(14-09-2015 05:09 PM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  Wasn't my intention to suggest they are complete bullshit, as they aren't. I also comprehend they are "overall" usually indicative of the average opinion. Too tired and disinterested to enter a huge statistics debate, my point is I have always (just my opinion, and we all know what that cast a skeptical eye towards how they present polls and surveys as "majority of Americans think blah blah blah" when I am smart enough to realize most people dont respond to polls and surveys, and those that do I would suspect have specific personality traits, or more apt to take the time to make their opinion known, may even have similar outlooks as other responders...thus the data is potentially skewed because it is an indication of who bothered to respond, not a slice of every demographic grouping across every state....I am a numbers guy, I love numbers, but I just give polls and surveys a sideways looks as I dont always trust their results...too many factors come into play....just my humble and skeptical opinion Big Grin

But there is a world of difference between,
"57% of Americans believe that..." and
"57% of Americans, based on a representative phone sample of 30,000, accurate to within 4% 19 times out of 20, and ignoring responses of 'don't know', believe that..."
(headlines might give the former; competent pollsters, such as Pew based on their record, will always publish the latter, if not necessarily in a press release)

The points you raise are all valid and all potential errors. But you're not the first person to worry about how to compensate for them!

(14-09-2015 05:09 PM)goodwithoutgod Wrote:  The link you provided was very helpful. This is not my area of expertise by ANY stretch of the imagination, I was merely proffering my opinion in these matters as a layman with a couple IQ points rattling around in my tired old brain. I found this part of your link interesting:

"A majority of Pew Research Center surveys are conducted among the U.S. general public by telephone using a sampling method known as random digit dialing or “RDD.” This method ensures that all telephone numbers in the U.S – whether landline or cellphone – have a known chance of being included. As a result, samples based on RDD should be unbiased, and a margin of sampling error and a confidence level can be computed for them."

Again, the problem for me comes to WHO accepts that random call, and sits down for a phone survey? I would submit to you while those that respond could cover a wide spectrum of demographics, my suspicion is people with similar personality traits, and perhaps worldview commonalities would sit down to answer the poll/survey....and thus the data is NOT representative of average american opinion, but representative of those who chose to answer....does that make any sense? perhaps not, I do tend to wander down paths sometimes lol.

DISCLAIMER: Again, NOT my area of expertise so don't skewer me to the wall with facts Tongue

In the end the only thing to be done is to try to compare survey results to more "empirical" measures. This may be easier or harder, depending on the topic...

Political inclination and affiliation, at least, are generally easy to gauge, because every couple years people vote based on them. Trivially - and ignoring that turnout, and correlations between belief, demographics, and turnout, also exist and are robustly investigated on their own terms - we can compare opinion polling with the actual election results. And by and large any large polling agency is within their margin of error for almost all elections, especially when aggregated. Exceptions tend to be where polling isn't available in crucial periods - take the most recent UK general election, or past provincial elections in BC or Alberta up here; if the election is on the 20th (made up date) and the last in-field rolling poll ended the 16th, there could be swings outside the margin of error within that timeframe. But then, that's more a matter of the difficulties of turning snapshots into predictions.

I apologise for being kinda snarky. I'm hardly a statistician by trade, but it rubs me the wrong way to see the field accused of neglecting precisely the problems it is essentially peoples' full time job to account for.

No worries, I like learning shit Big Grin

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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