• scott-swenson

    Having studied hundreds of polls during 20 years of advocacy work I was troubled about this NAEA poll as I read it, so after writing this piece, I wrote to Zogby International asking how a reputable firm allows a client to abuse their data as NAEA is doing. Today, I got a reply from Fritz Wenzel, Zogby's Director of Communications:

    I received your inquiry to Zogby International, and wanted to respond to the question about our client's representation of a particular poll. Like many pollsters in the industry, we offer guidelines to clients about how polling data should be treated in the public arena, but we have no ultimate control over how they treat that data. As far as message testing, we are happy to offer that service to clients, but clearly advise them to use it for its intended purpose – to develop messages

    I truly appreciate the response, carefully worded as it is. As my article states, there is nothing wrong with message testing — it is a valuable and important part of public opinion work.

    But if you google "abstinence poll" you will find this article and dozens of social conservative "news sites" and blogs that are repeating NAEA's claim that this message poll amounts to current public opinion. From Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, One News Now, Life Site, Christian News Now and other sites that conduct polling all the time and thus also know better — they all treat this as though it represents public opinion. Scores of conservative bloggers, well intentioned and assuming that the information coming from the leaders they look to is accurate, repeat it verbatim.

    Most of those sites do not allow comments, so it is hard to engage their readers and share critical analysis of what they are misinterpreting as public opinion. Predictably, many of those sites have lines like "here's another poll you'll never hear about in the liberal media," completely missing the fact it would be irresponsible to report something as public opinion that clearly is not.  The few sites that do allow comments moderate them and curiously my links to this piece didn't make the cut on most of them. Just in case those conservative readers find their way outside their insulated information bubble, here is what I said:

    The poll you are referring to was done to influence public opinion, not accurately measure it. For good and moral people interested in discussing the truth about this poll and abstinence-only policies please check out the critical analysis provided here ….

     

    After his kind note, I asked Mr. Wenzel at Zogby if he thought NAEA was complying with the guidelines about how to use polling in the public arena. So far no reply, but unlike the far-right blogs, we welcome comments from Zogby, NAEA's Valerie Huber, Rep. Pitts, Skip Brown or any abstinence-only advocate who is reporting on this poll as though it represents actual public opinion.

    The floor is yours…..

     

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    I just got an automated push poll call from NAEA. After about six questions they asked me to call my representative “Earl Perlmutter” and ask him to fully fund abstinence education. Actually, his name is “Ed” not “Earl”. And they neglected to include the word “only” after the word “abstinence”. So they are both dishonest and ignorant.

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