WAPOR Day 3: Margin of Error is too complicated to understand #AAPOR #MRX


All good things must come to an end and so to has WAPOR. But, today was still a full day of sessions so here are a few of my take aways.

  • Anything other than Margin of Error is too hard to understand.  AAPOR, and by association, WAPOR have been having a rough time lately with discussions, rants, arguments or whatever you want to call them regarding margin of error. In today’s business meeting, someone mentioned that using anything other than margin of error is just too difficult to understand. Well you know what, margin of error is difficult to understand yet we’re still all on the same page. The fact that it, or any other measure, is difficult to understand is absolutely no excuse. We aren’t stupid. Journalists are stupid. Pollsters aren’t stupid. Let’s find a measure that works, that makes sense, and start using it. I don’t care how ‘difficult’ it is.
  • Should you debrief after observational research? It’s probably been a hundred years now that various North American associations have agreed that observational research does not require researchers to inform the people they observe. As long as the researchers do not interfere, don’t talk to, don’t manipulate, don’t affect the people around them, don’t sneak around, don’t hide, don’t misconstrue, they are free to listen and observe what people are saying and doing in public spaces. No permission required.  But, I learned today that academics in Germany must debrief people afterwards. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. Chances are that at some point in the future, most if not all research organizations are going to have extremely similar ethics codes. How will we reconcile this one?
  • Newspapers are the most trustworthy. I found this kind of humorous. Newspapers first, TV second, social media is further down the line. It kind of made me think that the longer it takes to take the news and make it public, the more likely people are to trust it. Hence, since daily newspapers generally take about 24 hours to turn news into the medium, there’s a lot of time to determine where an error was made and refrain from printing it. Television makes somewhat of an effort to broadcast news as quickly as possible but even they take some time. If an item doesn’t make “live, breaking news”, it still has to wait until 6pm or 10pm to be shared widely. Again, lots of time to discover and error and correct it. But this blog post? I could have written it the very second I heard each tidbit (and I normally do) which means I could have misheard or mistyped something without realizing it. Hit “submit” and that false news is out there.

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