For what’s clearly not going to be the last time, This. Is. Not. Good. Journalism.

Today’s poll on the DH website:

This is a good example of a bad poll question.  The wording is leading.  There are lots of better ways to word the question.  Here are two examples:

“Was the media biased towards any candidate in particular during the presidential campaign?”

“Which candidate did the media treat the best during the campaign? The worst?” etc…

I am going to assume that no one at the DH intends to ask if the media was biased in favor of McCain during the campaign.  I’d be rather surprised if that question goes up next.

A journalist who was trying to be at least neutral, if not objective, would have asked a neutral question.  Asking this particular question – and wording it this way – implies that there was a bias toward Obama, and will therefore skew the results; this is Social Science 101 stuff.  Of course, since the respondents are self-selected, the results are rather irrelevant anyway, from a social science point of view.  I could post a poll and give it to everyone who reads this blog; are the results meaningfully representative in any way?  No, they are not.  At most, they are the collective opinion of those people who read my blog AND choose to take the poll.  The same is true of the DH – the first filter is who reads the paper (clearly not everyone, and they have no way of knowing if those who do are representative of the population as a whole); the second is who takes the poll (which is again a self-selected, non-representative group).  The result is that insofar as polling or surveys go, the results don’t carry any weight.

Look, such polls are fun to do, and we can laugh and be amused by the results, and they undoubtedly are designed to make the website interactive and dynamic and blah blah blah welcome to 2002.  But they’re not newsworthy – they are not representative of any given population, don’t control for demographics, and often aren’t worded in anything resembling a neutral manner.

I just noticed the same poll is on the GT website.  I’d personally prefer it if they stopped doing them entirely, but the DH and GT should at least make it clear that the polls are for entertainment only (or at least acknowledge near each and every poll that the results should not be taken seriously), and stop running the results as a news blurb.  And fergawd’s sake, they should never, ever write an editorial based on the poll results.

…just noticed it’s now on the LE website as well.  Aaah!

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