Friday, February 17, 2012

RAGS and riches

What is the real value to surveys and online polls?

I was one of the lucky 600 called on the Mendel survey. I didn't feel any response I could give to the various questions asked reflected my real views on the issue but simply whether or not my support was hot or tepid. It implied support was there.

The Mendel survey reported positive results in favour of the new RAGS project. Subsequently two online polls reported the exact opposite. For the online polls both sides were working the phones and emails to have their people vote. So do any of the results accurately reflect the opinions of the general public?

Our public will not pay large admission fees wherever the gallery winds up. And taxpayers do not seem to support increased tax subsidies. Please let there be a half way mark.

My worst fear is as the battle continues there will be no survivors and we will not get a much needed beefed up art gallery.


  1. It is at least possible to get a telephone survey to be statistically valid although it's taking more and more calls to get a proper random sample. Like any survey the questions and the order of the questions can skew the result.

    Online surveys and the way they are used are propaganda exercises. A good example of this is how the City of Saskatoon used the online recycling survey to announce that 80% of 3,000 people wanted curbside collection. As Charlie Clark said that 3,000 responses had to mean something.

    Unfortunately that survey didn't mean anything. Anyone who had ever sat through a stats class had to know that. In fact a professor at the U. of S. showcased for her class the City's recycling survey as a perfect example of what not to do.

    The media are no better when faced with press releases touting survey results. They don't look at the cross-tabs and methodology to see if the survey is structured to be biased or whether or not the survey has any statistical validity, they just report what they get. It seems that the reason that most people get into journalism in the first place is because 'math is hard'.

  2. yes, self-selecting or convenience selecting are week 2/3 of stats 101 on what is unacceptable if you want scientific results.

    and most journalists cannot write, let alone do math.

  3. The previous poll more than a year ago by C95fm radio asked the question: “Moving to River Landing: Hot or not?” The result was 91% in favour of renovating and expanding the Mendel; 9% in favour of the AGS River Landing concept. Also, the previous report by Fast Consulting in 2006 stated, “Key stakeholders are generally supportive of – and excited about – the expanded Mendel.”

  4. There was also another public poll by Rawlco Radio (NewsTalk650) over a year ago. In that poll, 18% were in favour of the new art gallery at River Landing, while 82% were opposed, stating “there wasn’t enough public input into this decision.”

  5. The question was also phrased in such a way that most people would give a positive response. If they had asked if renovating the Mendel Art Gallery would be a positive step for Saskatoon there might have been an even larger positive response.


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