You may have heard about the recent Harris Poll that said almost half of Americans think Rush Limbaugh is the News and Current Events personality they dislike the most:
Now the details – Harris provided a list of 26 possible answers and asked the people to select the 3 persons they liked the most, and disliked the most, and asked the people if they were Republicans, Democrats or independents.
Problem #1 – Harris chose the list
You won’t find Glenn Beck as a choice, or Michael Savage, or Mark Levin, or Bill Bennett, or Ed Schultz, or Bill Press. The only choices on the list are TV personalities – with the one exception of Rush Limbaugh. Talk about apples and oranges (or how irrelevant radio is to America?)
Problem #2 – The poll is of people on the Internet
This was a poll of online users only, who answered using their web site
Problem #3 – The poll is weighted
Harris took the raw numbers and weighted them based on what they believe real America is – as opposed to the 2,000 people who answered – including weighting the results based on how much time the people spend online. Once you give up trying to pick a representative sample from a population and instead use a known skewed sample and weight the results to try to create an approximation of the entire population, the results can pretty much say anything someone has paid you to make the outcome to be.
Problem #4: – the poll is self selected
The people who answered the poll are those people who wanted to answer the poll. As the disclaimer at the end admits, with participation in the poll being voluntary and self-selected, it is impossible to calculate a margin of error – meaning that it’s a totally useless, meaningless poll.