Student blog post: “Fox News Poll: Confidence in military remains high, in media low”

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“Fox News Poll: Confidence in military remains high, in media low”

This is the headline of an article that was published by Dana Blanton for Fox News on the 27th February 2017. The article is based on data that was collected from a sample of 1,013 registered voters who were then interviewed by telephone. The sampling technique that was used was that of a random sample of 433 landline telephone numbers and 580 cellphone numbers. These were selected at random with the number of phone numbers selected being proportionate to the population size of each state. The poll also described how the results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percent. Due to the fact that the data is based on results that were collected using a random sample of registered voters proportionate to the number of registered voters in those states, the results are likely to be highly representative of the rest of the population. Despite this, the results that the article is based on are questionable due to the nature of the wording of the survey questions. The respondents were told by the interviewers “I’m going to read you a list of people and institutions. Please tell me how much confidence you have in each”. However, the survey does not define what is meant by the word “confidence”. It is unclear if this should be interpreted by the respondents as if they have confidence in that institution to make good decisions, confidence in the power of those institutions or if they trust those institutions. Therefore, the results of this survey are likely to lack validity. Furthermore, the headline of the article is not directly supported by the results of the survey. The survey showed that 96% of the respondents responded that they had “A great deal” or “some” confidence in the military (with 67% responding that they had “a great deal” of confidence in the media). However, 44% of the respondents also answered that they had either “A great deal” or “some” confidence in the media. Thus, this does not indicate that “confidence in the military remains high, in media low” as the headline describes. Instead this indicates that confidence in the military is substantially higher than that in the media. Therefore, this is not evidence that confidence in the military is high and that confidence in the media is low. Moreover, the pre-defined answers that the survey uses distort the data. The survey only provides two options as to the respondent’s level of confidence in that institution, those options being if the respondents had “a great deal” or “some” confidence. The result of this is that the data is distorted as the lack of options means that those respondents that perhaps only have a very small degree of confidence in the military were categorised as having “some” confidence in the military. Similarly, members of this sample may also have chosen this response whom had a moderate or relatively strong degree of confidence in the military. In turn this lowers the validity of the results. Consequently, taking into account all of these factors this article is misleading in certain respects.

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