Why in the world would any reputable thinking group of people create a poll that they know from the outset is totally meaningless? That’s what PBS has done with its Sarah Palin poll. It just came in under the transom, and I really am disappointed in PBS.

Just because CNN does it does not justify PBS developing a poll of this type, even if it is replete with statements that they know it is not scientific. What’s worse is that the creators of the poll don’t seem to understand how these approaches lower their credibility in the eyes of PBS viewers, and donors.

In what amounts to a tacit admission of the ridiculousness of this approach, PBS’s John Siceloff writes in a post about the poll:

… is the Palin poll now “scientific”? Absolutely not. It is still subject to large scale efforts on the left and the right to mobilize people to vote.

At the moment the single-voter system was implemented, it was close to a tie: 50% say Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as Vice President, and 48% say no. Those results, in my view, are actually a measure of the mobilization and manipulation efforts by partisans on both sides. Now it will be all about mobilization, and less about manipulation. …

This guy doesn’t get it. This type of poll is unscientific and meaningless not because it is prone to manipulation (through mobilization or other means), but because there is no attempt to poll a group of people who are representative of …  either the electorate or the American people. For one thing, people who are aware of the ridiculousness of such a poll are self-selecting, or, rather, self-eliminating themselves from participating. Count me in that camp.

This false horse race aspect to such an important question is meretricious from the get-go. It does not bode well for PBS that it would take such an approach, and there’s no evidence that I can see that such polls increase viewer numbers of either PBS programs or web site.


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