The Present and Future of the Commodification of Public Opinion: A Spectator in an Audience of Whores

Even Better than the Real Thing

Even Better than the Real Thing

I’ve spent way too much of my time cleaning up the shit pooped out of the latest fake study by a right-wing Christianist, and it had direct bearing on things I’ve been saying for quite a few years. I was really glad to have put up that section of the article I wrote in 2005 talking about how religious conservatives have shitloads of money to do questionable studies to try to create public opinion! And, what happens? Notable in that little gem of social science research was the use of extremely low quality marketing data. Oh, sure, it’s better than the marketing data collected by those people who employ hipsters to troll the mall, but convenience panels plied with Cheetos to complete 4 surveys a month are hardly a basis for estimating population parameters. Now, we’re not talking about even 20% response rates. We’re probably looking at maybe a 2% recruitment rate with almost half of that falling out of the panel and no statistical control for within-household recruitment or household structure probability adjustments. And, I should note, that now days people think this is just fine and dandy.  And, if the internet savvy-yet-desperate-for-$20_for cheetos–recruits to the invasive marketing study aren’t representative of the population—adjust the data to force it to be so! Yeah Baby! We don’t need no stinking random samples, we have adjustment procedures! Great. We are so fucked. What is worse, it isn’t just dipshit marketing firms and their loser customers, or right wing ideologues and political hacks, but even academics buying into this shit—a few of them actually passed graduate statistics, even.

The disintegration of federal funding for social scientific research has left researchers desperate, and since bad marketing and media research has poisoned the pool and made it more expensive and time-consuming to get real random samples, many people have decided to simply ignore what they learned in introduction to statistical analysis—you know that section right after probability theory with all that talk about estimating population parameters from relatively small samples, Remember that? You know, the part about the necessity that samples be drawn randomly from the population you wish to make inferences about?  Bad data are seen to be better than no data…..but they aren’t! They’re Worse! Now, we’ll make erroneous inferences about the population parameters because our samples were not drawn randomly from the population! Great job! And, if we ALL agree that the Emperor’s new clothes are just titties, then we can all publish our results in ASR, right? Because, after all, for only $50,000 you can get a marketing firm to administer a questionaire to a bunch of people and you can be crunching data three months after your grant check clears! Just don’t worry if the data were collected by a bunch of minimum wage doofuses working for a marketing mid-level clerk who failed out of graduate school. Better yet, pay them piecemeal. They won’t make shit up, will they? Or collect it online! Even better! The internet was a huge boon for porn, why not for data?!

Sorry, I ain’t playing. No. Never. Not gonna dot it. Wouldn’t be prudent. Half-ass data like that from Pew may be novel enough on some questions to justify publication in a third tier journal, but you can forget sending shit like that to top 10 journals if I have anything to say about it. And, even “high quality” BS data like Pew are completely unacceptable when the question makes inferences about population characteristics—Using Pew or Gallup to say how many people identify with a religious group, for example, or what proportion of the population supports same sex marriage. Who fucking cares what the Pew data show? Not me. And the Pew data are now considered excellent! Back when I was an undergraduate, Doug Eckberg would have failed me in Survey Research Methods if I only garnered a 20% response rate for my interviews on the Tulsa Survey. Failed. No joke. I usually managed 55%-60%—Cynthia Chee always did better. But, these days failure is excellence! And we should all just sit back and watch, eh?

I’ll be a spectator in an audience of whores….

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