24 August 2009

Know your Public Opinion Research: Did we say "yes" to those shits?

I came back on this side ok, though Eric told me that this side would become the other side in 38 years time when I was still there two days ago. Very discouraging for somebody looking forward to coming back on this side for days.

I will write another story on my experience on the Big Brother side soon, but let's talk about Public Opinion Research for a while.

They said "yes"?

I somehow managed to read the Hong Kong newspapers on the other side (don't ask how and don't tell if you know how! Orwellians are reading!) I was shocked when I see this news:

"70pc of pupils OK with drug tests: poll" in City3, SCMP, 22 August 2009

I went "HUH?!" in my hotel room.

The respectable Hong Kong Research Association interviewed 714 secondary school students and 638 parents of such students throughout Hong Kong. What the fuck is "Hong Kong Research Association"? Anybody heard of them before?

Ok, 70% of these students said ok if they're picked. Who're the parents? They're the parents of those students interviewed! One day, Hong Kong Research Association called, they asked for your mama or papa. They told your mama or papa that it' s a survey about drug test. They interviewed your parents. They asked your parents to pass the phone back to you and asked if you would say "yes" to a drug test. Your parents were standing next to you listening. You dare say "no"?

I have no professional knowledge on opinion survey, but that is a possible scenario everybody can think of. 47% of those students are in their form 1-3, while only 20% of them are from form 6-7. If the above scenario makes any sense to you, most of them from the junior forms would have answered "yes".

Wanting to know more about this respectable research institute, I looked at their past research projects as well:
  1. Have you given Donald Tsang a higher grade recently? This survey in August 09 said that we thought Donald Tsang had been doing better now in eight aspects out of 11! WTF? What did he do in the past months?
  2. Another improvement for Tsang in June 09? Shit, I must have gotten too high when I was young to have my memory damaged so much! What the hell did he do around that time?
  3. DAB did much better than other major political parties? This March 08 survey said so. Well, of course those other parties suck. But, DAB was really that much better? And DAB has been the best party all the way except around June 07?
  4. Being a responsible and respectable research institute, they followed the LSD saga closely. They had to do one, two, and three surveys against the LSD legislators. The Pub does not endorse any political party in Hong Kong, but was that a bit...suspicious?
Who're Hong Kong Research Association?

So, who're the Hong Kong Research Association? Of course they say they're not-for-profit. But who funded this association, which has the resources to conduct three to four surveys each month? Why don't they publish their accounts, like most not-for-profit organisations do nowadays? Who're the bosses behind?

Their Chairman is Thomas So. Who the hell is he? The secretary-general of Hong Kong New Generation Cultural Association, member of All-China Youth Federation, and an advocate for "one country two systems".

So now, did you say "yes" to drug test, and did you praise Donald Tsang and DAB?

The results of public opinion researches could be counter-intuitive at times. They will tell you it's scientific and you have to accept it, like it or not. But the case above shows that it's always nice to ask a bit more, and be a bit critical when looking at these surveys (or if you like, become sceptical and cynical like me; then you can join the Pub!).

Just want to share with you another story about public opinion survey, which the SCMP editor called "spin":

"No amount of spin can sell a poor policy" in Leaders, SCMP, 22 August 2009

Anybody gets the analogy here?

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