Friday, November 18, 2005

Down for the Count

I came across the latest results from the quadrennial survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and, not surprisingly, the Democrat elite don't like George Bush.

Other poll results were interesting, even disturbing, such as the one at left which shows a 10% gain in the number of people who think that if we close our eyes and pull the covers over our head the terrorists will leave us alone. Keep in mind that the "2002" results shown were actually taken in the summer of 2001, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Scary, isn't it?

The good news is that the number of Americans who think that the U.S. should follow the lead of the U.N. is tanking: 54 %, down from 67 % three years ago. Perhaps we are not as brain dead as the numbers would appear. As always, how different socio-economic groups react to the same question is facinating to read.

Which brings me to the chart to the right.
What do you make of this? Nearly half of the 2,006 "general" people polled -- 46% -- believe that torture is justified to extract important information from terrorist suspects, and another 17% say it should be used only rarely. The "elite groups," on the other hand, are by and large against using torture. The fact that a higher percentage of Military respondents answered "never" than did the "News Media" provides an interesting irony, doesn't it? I also admit to be somewhat surprised that only 56% of the "Religious Leaders" showed up in the "never" column, although I did attend Catholic grade school.

Enjoy poking around the poll.
That it's all so meaningless makes it all the more fun.


Cassandra said...

I am sorry - this really does look very interesting, but I am just too exhausted and brain-dead right now to come up with anything intelligent in reply. Please bear with me.

spd rdr said...

Yoou think you're tired! I was up at 3:47 a.m. running around in my boxers trying to disable all of the smoke detectors.

portia said...

Boxers? More signs of ubersexual:)

Cassandra said...

Actually I was up then too. But I was working.

That's why I can't think.

Cassandra said...

OK, a few observations:

1. "fully 42%" of Americans think the US should mind it's own business abroad. Yes, but a solid majority of the "intelligentsia disagree, according to the chart showing the % saying US should be either the single world leader or most assertive of leading nations.

This certainly does not imply we should "mind our own business abroad". Apparently the "thinking Americans" still want the U.S. to take the lead. Interesting they would put that chart first, yet not draw attention to that conclusion, neh?

Cassandra said...

On further review, I find that the most interesting chart in the whole schmeer. What does that say?

I suspect the intelligentsia of hypocrisy, coupled with a sneaking faith in good old American values. Either that or they just want to be top dog, regardless.

The other interesting one is this:

Pluralities in every group of influentials – as well as the public – the fact that there has not been a terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 to luck. Just a third of the public – and no more than a third in any elite group – says it is because the government has done a good job in protecting the country.

What does this say, combined with the first chart, which says that 42% think if we hide our heads, the terrorists will leave us alone?

It says (maybe) that a significant number of people don't believe the threat is real - on the one hand they're saying we have no real protection in place, yet we haven't been attacked either.

My God how I'd love to taunt my sister-in-law (a scientist) with this. David, where are you?

Cassandra said...

Oh, and nice post, mr rdr.

That's 3 comments out of me and I haven't even had my morning coffee.

I'm exhausted.

spd rdr said...

That's why I find these surveys so interesting, Cass. It's like listening to talk radio: Nothing gets accomplished, but it's a great window on the world. The beauty of statistics is, of course, that you can use them however you please to show whatever it is that you want. Great conversation starter, but in the end, meaningless.

Pooke said...

The question is wrong. It should be "Should College Administrators and Professors be subject to torture". The answer would read much differently.

Cassandra said...

I think it's extremely difficult to frame social science surveys in such a way that they end up being meaningful, and the mistakes occur more often in setting up the survey (i.e., it was biased from the start, making what you do with the results irrelevant) than in interpreting the results, though that's a problem too. The sample sizes for the 'intelligensia' here were awfully small and the surveys were conducted by phone. I'm willing to bet there was huge sampling bias.

But I think this does show something interesting: that it's quite possible for people to hold completely contradictory opinions w/out their heads exploding. IOW, people aren't always, or even usually, very logical or coherent thinkers and they certainly aren't very well informed on policy issues.

But you could go to any cocktail party and flash on that one. We don't really need the Pew Trust to tell us that, do we?

And they ask me why I drink...

Cassandra said...

re: stats showing things, since that's what I do for a living.

I think that, properly used, they're like those bright orange cones in the road. Guideposts to keep you from running into a pothole. They're not terribly good, a lot of the time, at homing in on precise information (at least in the social science realm) because of measurement noise. People get all exercised about numbers and think they can, but it's a false precision - just because you throw two extra decimal places on that percentage point doesn't make the result more accurate. The margin of error is still the same.

But statistics can be quite good at telling you about broad trends, properly used, and often you'll see things that totally surprise you when you look at the data. Now, having bored you to tears, I am leaving.

Cricket said...

And how does one define 'most asseritve?'
With arms or tantrums? The nuances and contradictions alone!