Now they know…!

I just had the pleasure of receiving a phone poll pertaining to the upcoming mayoral election. The poller had the most pleasant “radio-quality” voice. I love the style of these folks. They never ask if they may ask you a few questions. They tell you they’re going to ask you a few questions. And then they do. But the genius of it is, by the time you think about not answering, you’re so caught up in the line of questioning that you accidentally engage in what proves to be an intellectually stimulating interview. Here’s what I mean…

I knew it was going to be good when they asked me to rate the “warm, positive” feeling I had towards the following names (100 being very warm and positive): Bill Bratton, Jim Hahn, Bob Hertzberg, Antonio Villaraigosa, Richard Alarcon, Bernard Parks, (one name I forgot), and Magic Johnson. MAGIC JOHNSON?! “Is Magic Johnson running for mayor?” I asked. The poller (or is it pollster) responded in the negative and suggested that Magic Johnson is a prominent figure in city politics. Is that true? I mean I know he’s an activist, but does he operate in some official capacity? Or, is he included as the next most prominent African-American city figure? Is he a race control for the “warm/positive” rating of Bernard Parks? I asked the poller and he had no opinion. Anyway, ever since a college statistics class where the only thing I learned was what constitutes a random sample, I’ve always been curious about polls. How are they written? How are their results analyzed? Why do they, in some cases, ask the same question twice in different words?

Sadly, there were only two supervisors on shift and they had both taken a coffee break simultaneously, so no one could answer my questions. The poller indicated that there were only two because the third woman recently broke her arm. If anyone is interested, the company running the poll is called Research Data Design and the pollers were not aware of who was paying for it. The only one clearly not paying for it was Villaraigosa. It displayed conspicuous anti-Villaraigosan language.

2 Replies to “Now they know…!”

  1. When they say “a prominent figure in city politics”, I think thats a very loose interpretation that can even include the cook at the Kosher Burrito stand that use to be across the street from city hall. I dare say that “sean bonner” could soon be a “prominent figure in city politics”.

  2. I used to work in polling (not the political kind, and certainly not the push-polling “would you feel better or worse about candidate x if you knew he ate puppies?” kind). Consequently, I can’t take a poll without wanting to know who’s polling, why, what their targets are, and trying to analyze the question make-up, order, and language.

    Similar sounding questions are usually not really that similar, and if they are, they are controls, playing off common language uses that might be understand or misunderstood in a give community.

    That your pollster answered any of your questions at all is a mark of a bad pollster, by the way. Ever single word they say off the script taints the data. If the language really was Anti-Antonio – I’d love some examples – then it may have just been a push poll, in which case, no one is writing down your answers anyway, except maybe your name if you answer like you’d be a willing donor or campaign volunteer.

    Nationally recognized polls can be quite involved and run through a lot of similarly sounding questions. There’s a real “Science” behind it – as much as soft sciences can be “science.” Stats were made to be manipulated after all.

    Could Magic Johnson ever run for council where you live (if you know if you live in his area)? It wouldn’t be a bad idea for such a high profile candidate to test his politically credible name recognition at a time when 1000s of polls are being taken as a way to avoid too much speculation and press.

    That’s an unlikely, but possible explanation.

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