Saturday, September 30, 2006

SurveyUSA responds to an inquiry

I emailed SurveyUSA today to ask about how various polls make it to their website's posted lists. Jay Leve, a SUSA editor sent me the following response:

SurveyUSA operates under the following rules of engagement, which we believe are industry standard:

All SurveyUSA “public opinion polls” are public, and as such, SurveyUSA publishes the results and makes as much disclosure as possible about the methods used to conduct the research. Once a SurveyUSA “public opinion poll” enters the public domain, SurveyUSA has an obligation to answer any questions put to it, that would help the media, or a citizen (such as yourself) make sense of the data.

By contrast, SurveyUSA conducts “private market research” for businesses, media and some political organizations. Results of these market research studies are confidential to the entity which commissions them – provided that the entity does not in any way make public reference to the results. Once the entity releases some or all of the results of a SurveyUSA “private market research” study publicly, by issuing a press release, or in some other way trumpeting the results, then the results of that study enter the public domain, and SurveyUSA treats the research as though it were “public,” and SurveyUSA is obligated to answer questions put to it, as to how the research was conducted and what questions were asked of respondents.

So, basically, until WDBJ talks about any Goode/Weed surveys done since July 26, we won't be able to find any information on SUSA. Personally I don't think we'll hear the results any time soon. I don't think the numbers are as "sensational" for Virgil this time around.

The Internet is great, isn't it? You can go online, find information (or the lack thereof) and then contact someone to ask a question about it. If you're really lucky, they actually respond. Thanks, Jay, for getting back to me in about two hours. Now, if only the other email recipient would answer my question.

It's been a while...

Things have been hectic lately, but I'm taking a break from homework to write a couple of posts.

Between my job (teaching school) starting on August 3 and graduate school beginning at the end of August (yes, I was accepted for a doctoral program at ODU), I have been really busy. I'm glad the garden was winding down when school started. We'll be cleaning a lot of it off this afternoon as well.

My job is even more stressful than before, as the administration changed our 4x4 block schedule so that teachers now teach 4 (four) 90 minute blocks each day with about 55 minutes at the end of the day for every teacher in the high school to have planning at the same time. Two days a week I have to leave when planning starts to go to my graduate classes and several of the other days always seem to have a meeting I'm required to attend. (At the end of the day, most of us are almost too tired to plan anyway. With only 30 minutes for lunch, bathroom breaks when you can get them, and a couple of teachers having three or four different preparations each day, this new plan is a killer!)

Graduate school is .... well, um, graduate school. Lots of projects, plenty to read, and homework to turn in. Yep, that's graduate school. This semester I'm taking Instructional Technology and Statistics. Nothing like a boring chapter on Educational Theories to put you to sleep at night, unless it's one on statistics, that is. I'm most enjoying the technology projects. We are beginning Flash projects using SwishMax in the next couple of weeks.

Learning new things is the best part about going back to school. In many ways, I wish I could take the time off from work to complete my doctorate instead. But, bills call...

Jim Kent, where are the results you promised?

The following email was sent to Jim Kent, news director for WDBJ7 in Roanoke this afternoon:

I wrote you in July about the fact that I found your SurveyUSA poll to be skewed in its analysis. In case you lost/deleted the email from July 28, 2006, I’ve copied it for you below:

To Whom It May Concern:

Not only are links in this WDBJ7 article not working (both the ones for email and survey details), but your report fails to identify 45% of the likely voters as being Republicans and 44% of the respondents as saying they are Conservative. Checking the crosstabs for the survey shows the actual data involved. Had the numbers been fairly distributed rather than skewed, I would consider the SUSA survey and your analysis valid. As it stands, I find both to be highly suspect and your coverage misleading. If we can’t trust our local media to provide accurate and detailed information, we might as well be listening and looking elsewhere. I hope in the future you will research more completely by looking at the make-up of a survey, rather than skimming the analysis for sensationalism.

Lisa Blanton
Cumberland VA

Your response was:

Ms. Blanton,

Thank you for your email. I looked this morning and found no problems with any of the links on our survey story. We haven't heard from anyone else who had trouble. The "Survey Details" is how you get to the cross-tabs, which you apparently saw, so I'm not sure what is not working for you.

The SurveyUSA poll is a random survey. The numbers are not skewed. A link to a complete explanation of the pollster's methodology can be found on the same page where you saw the cross-tabs.

Incidentally, we'll be doing these polls monthly during the campaign.

Thank you again for taking the time to write--and I'm sorry you had trouble with some of the links.


Jim Kent
News Director

I am now writing to ask: Where are the monthly polls you told me would be done during the campaign?

I have checked the SurveyUSA site very carefully. In their 2006 Election Polls list, I find that you have done surveys for the Senatorial races on 9/29/06, 9/27/06, 9/13/06, and on 8/21/06. You have even done polls on the Virginia marriage amendment on 9/29/06, 9/13/06, and 8/21/06. But on no date since the July 26, 2006, original poll that I questioned have you provided any results of a survey regarding the Goode/Weed contest.

I can only assume that the results were not to your liking, the sensationalism I referred to in my original email was lacking, or that, as I intimated in my original email, you can’t be trusted to provide accurate and detailed information. Perhaps you can direct me to the results—but then, I doubt it.


Lisa Blanton
Cumberland VA

P.S. Incidentally, I will be posting a copy of this email on my blog Honesty Counts and it will be picked up by the Virginia Blog Aggregator about 5 P.M. today.

I did respond back to his original email with the following:

Thanks for your reply.

Since your links did not work using my Mozilla Firefox browser, I actually had to go out to the original source—SUSA—to look at the crosstabs. In addition, I had to use your “Contact” link on the sidebar in order to send my email.

Most of the reports I have seen discussing this article are only looking at your coverage and passing on your information. They aren’t interested in the crosstabs or the methodology behind the survey. They are simply saying that Weed is being beaten by over 20 points. I still consider failure to mention that almost half of the respondents were Republican (even in a random survey) a bias. Unless the analysis in your article mentions this fact, people assume (no matter how wrong it is) that those participating were evenly distributed among the various parties being represented.

Thanks for the update about monthly polls. I’ll be interested in seeing if the numbers change with Virgil’s recent statement about the Department of the Defense no longer needing MZM/Athena’s services in Martinsville. In addition, if next month’s survey is primarily Democrats, I hope that you will maintain your silence about the makeup of the respondents and let the chips fall where they may. Anything other than that could definitely be considered biased reporting.

This all has me wondering: Does the sound of silence about any poll being taken indicate a definite bias in their coverage of this 5th Congressional District race? I certainly think so. Does their silence mean that the numbers aren't good for Virgil? Only WDBJ can tell us that answer and I don't think we'll be hearing from them any time soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

(Gasp!) The Horror...Well, Not Really...

Believe it or not, I found out the other day that my ex-husband is a Republican—from our children (ages 13 and 9) no less. I knew that his name did not appear on the Prevail lists used by our local committee, but figured it was just a factor of the criteria used to develop them—including those sent by candidates for GOTV purposes. While I knew that his views were becoming more right-leaning since remarrying, I never thought he was a “card-carrying” Republican. As you can tell, we rarely discussed politics during our marriage—except on Election Day, of course. No wonder his mother (a Democrat from way back) always said that we cancelled out a lot of his votes.

But I’m not worried about this fall’s Senate election—nope, not one bit. Why? As a state worker, my ex griped about George Allen for years. During the four years that Allen was governor, there were hiring and/or salary freezes for state workers. “He’s balancing the budget on the backs of the state employees” was a comment I heard over and over. So, according to my children, their father is voting for Jim Webb. Hmmm…maybe I’ll go next door and offer him a Webb sign for his yard.

NOTE: At the same time, I think I’ll ask my ex what Virgil has done for him lately as well. Considering that Virgil’s gotten only one of his introduced bills through Congress in the 10 years he’s been there, it can’t be much. At least Al Weed has a plan for what he’d like to accomplish in Congress.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Boycotts and Bogus Email Campaigns—a new kind of hate crime?

(Regardless of how busy you may be, some things just need to be dealt with.)

Two emails in one day--from two different people--all about the same organization's tactics to push its anti-homosexuality agenda onto two different groups, the National Education Association (NEA) and Ford company owners and prospective customers. How weird is that?

The first email from Virginia Education Association President Princess Moss says that the American Family Association (AFA) believes that the NEA is about to endorse homosexual marriage. Part of the AFA email says:

...The National Education Association is set to endorse homosexual marriage at their convention coming up in Orlando June 29 through July 6.

The new NEA proposal essentially says schools should support and actively promote homosexual marriage and other forms of marriage (two men and one woman, three women, two women and three men, etc.) in their local schools. The new proposal, expected to pass overwhelmingly, is found under the B-8 Diversity paragraph:

The Association... believes in the importance of observances, programs and curricula that accurately portray and recognize the roles, contributions, cultures, and history of these diverse groups and individuals. The Association believes that legal rights and responsibilities with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, legal immigration, domestic partnerships, and civil unions and/or marriage belong to all these diverse groups and individuals.

Translated, that means the NEA will promote homosexual marriage in every avenue they have available, including textbooks, to all children at all age levels and without the permission or knowledge of parents. Their plans will include every public school in America....”

According to Princess:

First of all, know that the NEA and the VEA have no position on same-sex marriages, and we are not seeking to establish a position. … Furthermore, NEA does not direct public schools or school districts on what is contained in their curriculum or in how they should proceed in any activity.

Meeting earlier this year, the NEA Resolutions Committee adopted a proposed change to Resolution B-8 that calls for the protection of legal rights and responsibilities of all diverse groups and individuals, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or other considerations. The Resolutions Committee's proposed language reads as follows:

The Association believes that legal rights and responsibilities with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, legal immigration, domestic partnerships, and civil unions and/or marriage belong to all of these diverse groups and individuals.

As a result of questions asked by some leaders, a change was recommended to the Resolutions Committee Chair. The recommended language below will be considered at the June 29 Resolutions Committee meeting. If adopted, this language is proposed for movement to Resolution B-10-Racism, Sexism, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identification Discrimination and would clarify the meaning of the original proposed amendment, reaffirming the Association's long-standing opposition to discrimination in any form.

The Association also believes that these factors should not affect the legal rights and obligations of the partners in a legally-recognized* domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage in regard to matters involving the other partner, such as medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, and immigration.

* As of June 2006 in the United States, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage, while California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Vermont grant persons in same-sex unions a similar legal status to those in a civil marriage by domestic partnership, civil union or reciprocal beneficiary laws.

The second email came from my dad, who has somehow gotten on the mailing list for this same organization. His email (a forward from AFA) says that:

The boycott of Ford Motor Company is working! Sales of automobiles made by Ford dropped 2% in May. This follows drops of 5% in March and 7% in April. When AFA began the boycott of Ford on March 13th, their stock was selling for $7.86 a share. As of Tuesday the stock had fallen to $6.68, a drop of $1.18 or 13%.

The success of the boycott prompted Chairman Bill Ford to have an email sent to all Ford dealers pleading with the dealers to "ask customers to support Ford." The email said customers "should stand by our company because of our innovative products, because for generations we've been a positive force in American society, and because our successful Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers have made their communities stronger."

It is clear that Chairman Bill Ford is willing to take Ford into bankruptcy to appease a small group of homosexual leaders. … Did you know that Ford Motor Company forces their employees to undergo "Diversity Training"? At Ford, "Diversity Training" means forced attendance at company sponsored meetings which are used to promote the homosexual lifestyle. Attendance is required. Employees cannot opt out. In their "Diversity Training" homosexual leaders present the homosexual lifestyle and teach employees to accept that lifestyle.

No other view of homosexuality is allowed to be presented. No one is allowed to speak against the homosexual lifestyle or present the serious health problems associated with it. At Ford, "diversity" means there is only one view of homosexuality--that presented by the homosexuals--and that is the only view Ford will allow.

I went to the AFA website and found this:

When Ford responds to those who write concerning their promotion of homosexual marriage, the response they get from Ford's Customer Relationship Center says their support "is a strong commitment we intend to carry forward with no exception." For Ford, that support also includes homosexual polygamy.

To show those supporting traditional marriage they mean business, Ford sponsored the June 6 issue of the homosexual publication The Advocate. The cover (article) … promotes homosexual polygamy.

Ford sponsored the publication with a full page back cover advertising Ford Motor company product Volvo and a full page ad for all Ford brands with the line: Ford Motor Company. Standing strong with America's families and communities.

Ford's support for the magazine's promotion of homosexual polygamy leaves no doubt that Ford means to continue pushing the homosexual agenda, even including homosexual polygamy.

Ford’s policy (from their website):

Valuing Diversity
Diversity embodies all the differences that make us unique individuals. Not limited to physical aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation, it includes culture, religion, education, experience, opinions, beliefs, language, nationality and more.

At Ford Motor Company we recognize that diversity is not only a reality of our global nature, it’s a distinct advantage, and one that we value and embrace. We also know that we can only leverage the benefits of diversity by understanding and respecting the differences among all employees.

Just as our customer base is infinitely diverse, so is our workforce.

Reflected in our products, diversity is a competitive advantage in a global economy. It broadens our range of talents and stimulates our creativity, adding to the appeal of our products especially in new and emerging markets. Our understanding of diversity helps us serve our customers better.

Diversity Proves Its Value
We find that well-managed, diverse work teams can outperform homogeneous teams in quantity, creativity and quality; that complex problems can best be solved by cross-functional teams typical of matrix organizations; and that people who work, live and learn in integrated settings develop stronger interpersonal communications and negotiating skills.

Diversity enhances confidence and improves the contributions made by people in such environments. Valuing and respecting each individual simply makes good sense. Success and productivity are natural extensions of a corporate culture that truly values all people, putting diversity among our top corporate priorities.

Equal Opportunity
Ford Motor Company is an equal opportunity employer committed to a culturally diverse workforce. Here is a brief statement of our commitment:

Opportunities for employment and advancement will be available on a non-discriminatory basis--without regard to race, color, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, handicap, or veteran status. We take affirmative action in accordance with law to have minorities and women represented appropriately throughout the workforce and to provide qualified handicapped persons, disabled veterans and veterans of the Vietnam era opportunity for employment and advancement.

Ford has set up several resource groups to “provide support and fellowship, identify barriers, contribute to employees' professional development, and provide organized activities for employees of diverse backgrounds.” One does focus on gay, lesbian or bisexual employees, but there are others for women, Hispanics and other cultural and ethnic groups, families, individuals with disabilities, and even one for people of faith.

Founded in 2000, the Ford Interfaith Network (FIN) aims to assist the company in becoming a worldwide corporate leader in promoting religious tolerance, corporate integrity, and human dignity. We strive to act in accordance with our beliefs and out of love for human beings and all of creation, promoting understanding and respect for the various faiths.

I support an individual’s rights to his/her own privacy—including from government monitoring of phones, internet usage and even library checkout habits. Of course, I personally wonder about the AFA for two reasons.

  • Despite the Bible's teachings on not judging harshly, unfairly or in selfish ways, I'm starting to think that "religious tolerance" is an oxymoron.
  • And the second reason? It’s based in Mississippi—the same state where citizens fought against civil rights by killing activists and promoting segregation. Racism still exists in the South, as I know from my own area of the world.

I saw on Waldo’s sideblog that homosexuality has been documented in over 450 vertebrate species. If it’s that common among God’s creatures, it just can’t be a human “problem.” I think the AFA needs a little diversity education or at least a little religious tolerance.