quarta-feira, novembro 02, 2011

What poll results to publish?

SIC Notícias made this piece about the last Eurosondagem poll. Expresso published this piece summarizing the results concerning mass opinion about the budget measures. Maybe more about this poll has been published and I just missed it. What I did not miss, however, are the actual marginals published here. And there are results I haven't seen published anywhere (rounded):

P.20 Acha que o governo cortou o suficiente na despesa?
Sim: 38%
Não: 43%
NS/NR: 20%

P21. Tendo em conta o Orçamento de Estado, vai mudar hábitos de vida no próximo ano?
Sim: 69%
Não: 27%
Ns/NR: 4%

P.27 Se estivesse em idade ou tivesse possibilidades considerava emigrar?
Sim: 61%
Não: 32%
NS/NR:7%

I really don't like P.27, as it deals with too many hypotheticals. P21 was followed by a question for those who answered "Yes", and "Eating Out" was the most selected option for cuts in personal expenditures, and this is vaguely interesting too (although not "political" enough, I assume). But it is P20, and its deemphasis in the news coverage, that I find particularly interesting. Sometimes, journalists are puzzled by apparent contradictions in polls: "If a huge majority of people disagree with the cuts, as responses to other questions in the poll show, how can then a plurality believe the government has not made enough cuts?", I imagine them thinking. But the results are not necessarily contradictory:

1. People may disagree with the concrete cuts and prefer other ways of reducing expenditure. This is especially inviting in this poll because those "other cuts" that might make them "enough" remain unspecified. 
2. "Expenditure" may generically sound bad, in the sense of wasteful. People may react to the question by thinking that it is a positive thing to cut "waste", that more should be done in cutting it, and that the government has not done enough of it. This does not mean they should support the concrete government plans at all.
3. Talking about "enough", without specifying "enough for what", further increases vagueness and allows for these apparent contradictions. Does "enough" mean that there will not be more? Does it mean that it will be "enough to satisfy our creditors"? Does it mean "enough to prevent Portugal from entering the Greek death spiral"? Etc.

In sum, it is a very good thing that ERC allows us access to the poll data unfiltered by whatever journalists think is newsworthy in those data.

P.S.- A few days later, these results were published.
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