Do a majority of Americans really think unlimited government access to phone records is okay by them?
If the Washington Post can be believed, "Most Americans Support NSA's Efforts." In an overnight poll conducted by WaPo and ABC News, "63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort," Not surprisingly, WaPo doesn't tell us what the poll questions actually were or what the multiple choice answers were. It does, however, admit at the bottom of the article that: "A total of 502 randomly selected adults were interviewed Thursday night for this survey. Margin of sampling error is five percentage points for the overall results. The practical difficulties of doing a survey in a single night represents another potential source of error."
I want to talk to the statistician who claims that 502 randomly selected adults, called at home at night, who may or may not have been familiar with the story or the issues involved, or have understood the questions, can give an accurate snapshot of what "Americans" actually think within any margin of error. What pool of "adults" were the 502 polled selected from? The same pool that logs online to vote in those instant polls that ask, "Do you believe Nancy Holloway is still alive?"
WaPo's Richard Morin is on MSNBC with Natalie Allen echo chambering the poll results. He's making all kinds of claims about what the poll says without giving any granularity as to how it was conducted. And the rest of the talking heads are citing the poll results as if they were Gospel truth.
We need to start insisting on transparency in poll reporting. Who was polled, what questions were asked, what the answer choices were, and an honest assessment of any given poll's statistical accuracy.
As best one can tell from the information WaPo has provided, the overnight poll on the NSA call database story has no scientific legitimacy whatsoever.
Shame on them for even publishing it, and shame on the news networks for giving it legitimacy.
Hey, here's a poll question for you: who has less credibility, WaPo or the Bush administration?