A couple of people have taken me to task, in light of the election results, for my earlier take on the Hanabusa-Case decision. Here’s an example:
So, Ian. Just want to know if you are embarrassed that you bought into that terrible Advertiser poll and switched your vote from Hanabusa to Case. I really didn’t care which of them won, but I hate that the media creates news by using polls, especially since they are so, so bad at doing them. And you bought it, hook line and sinker. You’re too good for that.
First, I should clarify that I didn’t “buy into” the Advertiser poll. I tried to survey the information available, which included that poll and others that were publicly cited, along with indirect evidence of polls unseen that led to outside groups to target Case from left and right.
When a conservative mainland group chose to target their negative media exclusively at Case and ignore Hanabusa, that certainly appeared to indicate that their best data found Case to be the one in a position to challenge their favorite. And when AFSCME targeted independent expenditures at Hanabusa’s opponents, they targeted both Case and Djou. Had they been confident, based on polling data available to them, that Hanabusa was going to be the clear Democratic leader, they wouldn’t have split their attention. They would have put everything into blasting Djou.
One problem at this point is that the Office of Elections hasn’t made their detailed data file with precinct-by-precinct results available yet, so I haven’t been able to take a good look at the numbers in order to test different explanations for the outcome.
So, no, I’m not embarrassed at all at my pragmatic suggestion that an Ed Case would be preferable to Charles Djou. And I am impressed by the amount of money that flowed into Hanabusa’s campaign in the last several weeks.
But the same reader had an earlier comment criticizing the Advertiser poll that I do strongly agree with. This has to do with the standards for responsible media polling.
It is absolutely WRONG for the Advertiser or other periodicals to be publishing polls so close to the election period. Why? Because people react exactly as you are reacting. This isn’t reporting news. This is creating news. People are altering their votes because of a survey taken by the Advertiser.
And the Advertiser is NOT giving you sufficient details to examine the accuracy of the poll. For example: What specific question was asked? What was the sample made up of? Where did the phone numbers come from (registered voters haven’t had to provide their phone numbers since the 90’s; how much systematic bias is there in the sample used — also did they use cell phone sampling — how did they then screen for registered voters, etc. etc., etc)? Was there any weighting done before reporting the data (must have been given the disproportionate sampling)?
Any of these questions would be answered in private polling. Yet the Advertiser presents a public poll without being forthright with any of it, making it almost impossible to judge the credibility of these results. And they get away with it because the average reader assumes the newspaper is an unbiased purveyor of the news.
The Honolulu Community-Media Council (now known as Media Council Hawaii) took up this same question in early 1974 by pulling together a group to study and make recommendations.
The meeting pulled in two academics, Earl Babbie and Dan Tuttle, to provide specific expertise on opinion polls. Babbie had created a polling manual for the media to use during the 1970 election. Tuttle presented a simpler 11-point guide to polling that the council eventually adopted at its February 26 (1974) meeting. The required information that Tuttle recommended newspapers disclose when publishing public opinion surveys included “sponsors, wording, definition of area, representativeness, size of sample, make-up of sample, how were contacts made, interview or secret ballot, dates of survey, margin of error and estimate of refusal rate.
[From MEDIATOR AND ADVOCATE: THE HISTORY OF THE HONOLULU COMMUNITY-MEDIA COUNCIL, a dissertation done at the University of Hawaii by Ralph Thomas Kam, May 2005.]
That was before my time as a member of the Media Council, but I recall the issue coming up again in later years, probably in the mid-to-late 1980s, and the Media Council again held public surveys up to the same disclosure standards. Apparently its something that needs to be updated and used again to hold the news media to a higher standard.