Thursday, December 16, 2010

Adding a touch of expertise

When I studied statistics in school, long ago, it was fairly easy to suffer rapid head spin. Despite a few advanced courses during my working career, the tendency remained to be intuitively baffled by statistics. Polling is one of the dark sciences so I am reserved about believing my own analysis. Yet, others equally lacking in knowledge, are not so reserved.

Because of that, we have seen in various writings a tendency to believe that poll numbers indicate whatever supports pre-conceived positions of the writers. That prevents them from being useful except for making simplistic arguments.

Kennedy Stewart, associate professor in SFU's school of public policy, is a political scientist who studies, among other things, research methods. He recently commented on polling techniques used in our political community. More than anything, he cautions against taking certainty out of results without analysis of all the factors. Dr. Stewart, 2004 federal NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre, left this comment at his blog:
"On the non-probabilistic online polling technique used by Angus Reid, most academic papers I have read regarding this sampling technique (randomizing among self-selecting panel members) report such polling can produce accurate top-line results, but are very problematic when it comes to anything else below the topline.

"Hopefully Mustel will release something soon – then we can do some seat projections and see what is going on below the surface."
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1 comment:

  1. Hi Norm. I went searching for stories on-line about the newly released BC Rail affidavits last Tuesday, and have been monitoring for anything since then. I haven't been able to find ANYTHING on the CBC BC website - not even two words - on this story. When I called the "report-a-story" line, all they could say was " it was covered-off in radio and TV...so it wasn't reported on-line". I called their "Audience Relations" number and got a fellow at the National Audience Relations desk who didn't know who David Basi was (is that B-A-Z-Z-Y?)and who called the CBC BC newsroom that "Nothing substantially different has been reported (on BC Rail) in the last couple of weeks..." I lodged a complaint. As RossK would say, SHEESH!

    Warren White
    Gordon Head, Victoria

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