So says Pittsburgh’s own Civic Science Inc. in an interview with KDKA’s Jon Delano, that is.
*-UPDATE: “CSI Pittsburgh” offers up some thoughts and answers to suddenly frequently asked questions on its blog. Original post continues
Before folks start breaking out into song, a few important caveats. Civic Science Inc. is a consumer market research firm, and something of an innovative high-tech start-up at that. It does political tracking mostly “for fun” (and, apparently, for publicity). Although they reputedly were alone in accurately predicting the results of the Rich Fitzgerald / Mark Patrick Flaherty race for Allegheny County Executive, this particular business avowedly isn’t even their specialty — as evidenced by the lonesomeness of their one and only local politics query.
Furthermore, this is somehow an Internet-based poll — though it looks as though there’s more to it than the straightforward, rinky-dink, answer-as-often-as-you’d-like polls any of us can slap on our website. There is talk for example of “sampling”, “demographics” and “science”.
Judge for yourself how the firm’s CEO, John Dick, answered the Comet’s cursory question about compensating for the “digital divide,” or the fact that several sets of demographics interact with the Internet a lot less frequently and intensely than others:
1) We believe in the law of big numbers. While there is admittedly bias in any human sample, those biases can be measured when you have large enough data. In the case Ravenstahl #s, a 26,000+ person sample included enough people in every imaginable demographic to build reliable models. 2) On the matter of “digital divide:” First, this is a dying phenomena. Web connectivity is virtually ubiquitous among all but the oldest and most indigent populations. Compare that with the landline telephone (still the prevailing means of opinion research). Only 74% of US households have a land phone. Among those, at least half subscribe to Do-Not-Call Lists and CallerID services, rendering them unreachable. If there is a “digital divide,” think of it as a crack in the sidewalk. The “land-phone divide” is Panther Hollow.
In our non-expert opinion, if there happens to be any significant sampling biases (if there are no significant controls for age, race, income, and for whatever psychology explains people choosing to fill out Internet political polls on their own initiative) “large numbers” would not do anything to fix that. We don’t feel like we have the data quite yet to weigh whether that is in fact a problem here, but the amount of attention this poll is garnering so quickly suggests that’s likely to change.
All of that aside — 19% job approval!
It’s hard to imagine any skewed sampling of any variety that could make Mayor Ravenstahl feel okay with a number like 19% being produced. Colonel Gaddafi used to poll at least in the low 30’s.
Next time we hope they also measure the “job approval” of City Council, or of other specific local public officials. The responses may have simply reflected a general “Aw, phooey” sentiment towards city government as a whole, until we discover some one or some thing polls any better.
And we hope there are many next times. Poll numbers are like crack for the media, and nonpartisan polling data would make local politics a lot easier to cover and analyze. Kudos to Civic Science for taking some first steps!
MORE: That’s Church
seemed to be at least a little impressed by the “trust me, geniuses
” argument, though Null Space
wonders how much better this is than a radio call-in poll. Maria of 2PJ’s in fact
broke out into song 40 minutes before we published this.
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