Campbell Live poll and deceitful democracy

Campbell Live is running a poll on the GCSB bill which will run until the results are announced on Monday 19th August. This coincides with a “Fill the Town Hall and Stop the GCSB Bill” campaign meeting in Auckland.

Whale Oil has had a dig at the poll – Is the Campbell Live GCSB Poll a piss-take or what? Whale points out the irony of capturing of private data in a poll about the capturing of private data.

More significantly a pollster points out obvious deficiencies in the poll – Campbell Live GCSB poll commits the ultimate sin of survey research which points out a@CampbellLiveNZ tweet:

In the next week we’re aiming for the biggest opinion poll in NZ history. Do you support the GCSB Bill? Vote here.

Andrew explains what anyone familiar with polling will know.

Here’s a really important point for anyone wanting to judge the accuracy of this poll –big numbers do not provide representative data!

Here’s why…

This poll commits the ultimate sin of survey research – it uses a self-selecting sample.

People choose to take part based on the topic. This means that the poll only represents the New Zealanders who feel strongly enough about the GCSB bill to take part in the poll.

The only way to attempt to gain a representative result is to take a random sample of New Zealanders, and to ask them the question. Preferably, the topic of the poll shouldn’t be given to people in advance, so their decision about whether to take part will not be based on the topic in question.

He then shows how self-selection with polls can “make an enormous difference”.

But it’s worse than simply self-selection.

It takes a bit more effort but it’s still possible to vote multiple times in the poll.

And there are active campaigns to distort the poll to try and achieve a particular outcome. There is a major effort to make the poll a PR device which is a distortion of democracy.

And it is likely to be promoted elsewhere.

Ironically a commenter ‘geoff’ at The Standard complains about the results being skewed by National.

Why put any merit in an online poll? Sure the GCSB bill will attract a lot of people who are legitimately against it but it is also going to attract the attention of National’s ‘Research Unit’ who, no doubt, will have a room full of people working day and night filling out the form and skewing the results.

The results will be skewed for sure, but it will impossible to tell how much and in which direction the most skewing has occurred.

And this is becoming common. And skewed results are being used in PR campaigns to try and create deceitful perceptions.

It’s a common practice now to use a protest, a poll, a petition or stack submissions to create a perception of democratic opinion. This is deceitful democracy.

Campbell Live should know better. Unless they do know what they are doing.

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1 Comment

  1. Peter

     /  19th August 2013

    The poll had a pretty conclusive result, 52,666 people made the effort to vote (quite a few more than the claimed 30,000 for snapper) with 46,790 opposed to the Bill. Fair enough, there was a fair bit of promotion by opponents of the Bill, but supporters had the same right and opportunity to drum up votes in support. After all our elections are marked by a lot of campaigning, it’s part of democracy.


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