Lies, damn lies and statistics, research and opinion polls!
Robert X. Cringely aka Mark Stephens, the distinguished American journalist and author of “Accidental Empires” – an iconoclastic account of the rise of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (and well worth a read) – wrote, I paraphrase slightly:
Journalists use research rather like drunks use lamposts – more for support than enlightenment.
In politics, for research read opinion polls
Following this year’s events, opinion polls are toast – yes?
Pollsters use dubious algorithms based on data gathered via email and out of touch landlines – surely another poll would tell them how many people use mobile phones rather than landlines.
In politics, opinion polls were wrong when 17,410,742 million people in the UK defied the polls and voted for Brexit, and wrong again when the American people defied the predictions of the polls and voted for President Elect Trump of America.
But media and PR folks may be twice bitten, but we’re never shy. Witness Katty Kay of BBC World News America on NBC TV, who brazenly used a new opinion poll – yes, you couldn’t make it up – to prove that if the Brits were to vote again on Brexit versus Remain, they would vote Remain!
Never, I repeat never, let any fact – however big – get in the way of a good story. And for PR professionals, another often used quote goes “The take up by the media of any research report is inversely proportional to the size of the sample.”
So no doubt we’ll all keep on seeing them used in the media to provide credibility to our clients’ stories!
Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO at IBA International