Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pseudopolls for Pseudoscience

Polls are cool! Skepchick has a great post on polls that got me thinking about how to use polls for pseudoscience.

Here are a few types of pseudopolls:

1) Only poll people you agree with
2) Misquoted polls that leave out people you disagree with
3) Completely made up polls (i.e. fraud)
4) Polls on your site or tv, radio station
5) Quote only polls that somehow agree with you
6) Polls quoted out of context
7) Polls that can be tampered with to overly support a conclusion
8) Ask leading or confusing questions that guarantee your expected results

Sometimes you can combine pseudopoll types. Like Fox News does. They no longer use national randomized polling. They poll their far right audience. They get 1,4,5 and 6 all in one shot. They are polling people that love anything Fox News says (1), they are non-random because this is on their far right site for their cable programs, and they quote out of context by saying that 'americans' voted some issue when it is really Fox News far right extremist viewers voted(6).

Funny thing is that they also goof and make up stuff about what the polls means they are creating effectively a made up poll (3) or they don't address data that disagrees with their far right conclusions (2).

Fox News polls are also easily swayed. There is no scientific method or tamper proof system. Simply some wacko viewer can vote 10,000 times with a bit of imagination and some Javascript.

The pseudoscientist should take every advantage of these pseudopolls. Imagine a site about aliens and the kinds of polls you could use to support that people need little charms to prevent alien abduction and probing. Or a homeopath drug site that polls customers for results. It is so easy.

And don't forget that if you don't like the numbers, just change them!

There is also how you ask a question(8). For example: Would you like your health questioned by a death panel? Who wouldn't say no!

As always, our friends at Fox are doing a bang up job. Head out to this LINK to see how the masters of misdirection do it.