Re: An interesting Poll from Zogby

Date: Wed Sep 10 2003 - 11:03:57 EDT

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    Welcome to the list David.

    Your insight to the pitfalls of polling is very helpful, but I wonder if you could give an example of a question roughly corresponding to the one you criticized below that would be relatively immune to the difficulties you noted. It seems to me that any set of questions pertaining to evolution simple enough to be posed to and answered by the general public would be subject to such problems.

    Of course, this probably just means that polling is not the best way to address this issue.

    Also, what is your general take on Zogby as an organization? What is its professional status? Is it well resepected?


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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: David Opderbeck
      Cc: ;
      Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 7:21 AM
      Subject: Re: An interesting Poll from Zogby

      Hello. I'm new to this list and am finding the discussion of the Zogby
      survey results interesting. By way of brief background to my following
      comment, I'm a law professor and previously I was a litigation attorney for
      12 years. Surveys are often introduced as evidence in court proceedings,
      particularly in my area of expertise, intellectual property. For example,
      in a trademark infringement case, surveys are often used to determine
      whether the consumer public perceives the defendant's mark to be
      confusingly similar to the plaintiff's mark. One of the key evidentiary
      principles for determining the weight to attribute to a given survey is
      whether the survey employed leading questions or questions that make
      questionable assumptions. This survey would be easy to attack on that
      basis. To highlight one example:

    > 2. The state board of education is currently deciding which biology

    > textbooks should be approved for use in public schools in Texas.
            Which of
    > the following two statements comes closer to your own opinion?
    > A: The state board of education should approve biology textbooks
            that teach
    > only Darwin's theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that
            supports it.
    > B: The state board of education should approve biology textbooks
            that teach
    > Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence
            against it.

    > By nearly a five-to-one margin, people are more likely to agree
    > Statement B (75%) than Statement A (16%). Approximately one in ten
            are not
    > sure (9%)

      Part B of this question assumes there is "scientific evidence against"
      Darwin's theory of evolution. Behind that assumption, as has previously
      been pointed out, is an assumption about what is meant by "Darwin's theory
      of evolution." Also behind that intial assumption is, presumably, an
      assumption about what is meant by "scientific evidence," and that, whatever
      "scientific evidence" means, there is some such evidence "against" Darwin's
      theory. We could have expert witnesses on the stand for days testifying
      about those assumptions alone.

      The really difficult and interesting thing from a public policy perspective
      is how it would be possible to craft a fair and balanced (to use a phrase
      that has been much bandied about lately) survey when much of the public
      generally lacks any understanding that terms such as "scientific evidence"
      are loaded. I'd hate to see public policy made based on this Zogby survey,
      but I'd also hate to see public dollars spent on public education without
      accounting for public opinion at all.

      Prof. David W. Opderbeck, Esq., J.D., LL.M.
      Fellow, Visiting Professor and Associate Director
      Institute of Law, Science and Technology
      Seton Hall University School of Law
      One Newark Center
      Newark, NJ 07102
      (973) 642-8955

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