Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Polling accuracy: NY Times doesn't have it

Granted, this is kind of old news, but it makes you stop and think about the sources of "news" we're subjected to in relation to public health concerns:

During my research today at work, I came across this article that expresses Americans' general distaste for cell phone usage in vehicles: Many in U.S. Want Texting at the Wheel to Be Illegal

What's interesting about this poll, you might ask? Well, just read through the methodology here: How the poll was conducted

Does anyone else find it absolutely ridiculous that you would poll only land lines when asking questions about cell phone usage? Perhaps we should consider for a moment the 25% of Americans who don't have access to traditional telephony ... 1 in 4 have no landline. I bet their opinions about cell phone usage might be just a little different. Did anyone stop to consider that people in landline-friendly homes (or even homes with *gasp* no cell phone at all) might be a little biased against cell phone usage? They might have some kind of ideological beef against cell phones. They might be the ones yelling at the young whippersnappers to "Get Off My Lawn!!!"

So ... don't believe everything that you read. That's clearly an established idiom, but I'm consistently surprised at how organizations are allowed to get away with stuff like this.

ETA: Also, shouldn't we be thinking about how this is going to affect public health polling in general? What's our demographic shift if we are only considering those with hard-wired houses? We will be discounting impoverished communities, as well as renters and some minority groups. This is just another factor that's contributing to the continued fragmentation of efforts within the public health community; we must develop new ways of soliciting accurate information so we can take action. If even our basic premises are flawed because our methods are outdated, are we really doing our jobs at all?

1 comment:

  1. Yep, good points. It reminds me of the polls that popular news networks display to the public claiming "70% of Americans believe such and such" when usually the polls are held on their websites or their shows. The results are going to be skewed to their viewers and do not represent the US an a whole.