Thursday, March 1, 2007

Questions About The UVM 2006 Vermonter Poll

I've seen a number of references made by the Second Vermont Republic leadership to an annual survey that is conducted by the Center for Rural Studies of the University of Vermont.  The first reference that I could find to the poll conducted for 2006 by the CRS is this one posted April 29, 2006 on Rob Williams' blog.  It's a cut and paste of a piece written by Thomas Naylor:
POLL SHOWS VERMONT INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT LEADS THE NATION
8% of Vermonters Favor Secession

The 2006 Vermonter Poll recently conducted by the Center for Rural Studies of the University of Vermont indicates that the percentage of eligible Vermont voters who favor secession from the United States of America - 8% of those polled - could very well be the highest in the nation.

[snip]

Vermont’s idiosyncratic nature came through loud and clear in the 2006 Vermonter Poll. In a statewide random sample of over 600 eligible voters, two-thirds of the respondents expressed the view that the U.S. government has become unresponsive to the needs of individual Vermonters. Nearly twenty percent of those sampled believe that it would be useful for the Vermont legislature to commission a study to evaluate the economic impact of Vermont becoming an independent republic as it was between 1777 and 1791.

How many eligible voters in Vermont actually favor secession from the Union? According to the survey more than eight percent of the eligible voters would opt for secession. If one extrapolates from the survey to the population of the entire state of Vermont, there could be as many as 37,000 voters who are favorably inclined towards secession... [1]
Now I would hate to get into an argument with an economics professor over his figures and method of extrapolation but they really do seem to be flawed.  In polling one can't assume an equal interest among differing groups will be a constant.  People who do not register to vote may have no interest, one way or the other, in the matter; people not old enough to vote may not be able to develope an informed opinion; and, so on.  From the figure provided, and from data available from the VT Secretary of State, one should only extrapolate that among active voters (those not under challenge by local Boards of Civil Authority) 31,619 might favor secession. [2]  Moreover, one unconfirmable report suggests that the stated percentage of support for secession may in fact be lower and could put the possible support level in the area of 25,000.  However Naylor's overstating the number of people who'd favor secession isn't really the point that I'm getting at here, although it is consistent with the kind of inflated sense of importance that we've been witness to in SVR's estimation of its relevance in Vermont.

Naylor's piece seems to suggest that there were at least three questions asked that might have had to with (1) a question asking about the respondents view on the U.S. government's responsiveness to the needs of individual Vermonters; (2) a follow-up or second question having to do with the respondents view on the usefulness of a study by the legislature to evaluate the economic impact of a return to republic status; and then finally (3) a direct question about the respondents view on secession.  The wording of questions, their order and the available responses can produce an effect know as "response bias."  Think of it as a type of reverse "push polling."  The goal, rather than to create a negative impression of an issue or candidate, is to move the repondent to thinking positively of the issue prior to eliciting a response on the issue.  Might that have occurred in this case?   That's impossible to say since the questions and their order, as well as the results, were not published by CRS in their report on the 2006 Vermonter Poll. [3]

According to the National Council On Public Polls there are 20 questions that should be asked about any poll that is conducted.  Number two on that list is:
"2. Who paid for the poll and why was it done?

You must know who paid for the survey, because that tells you – and your audience – who thought these topics are important enough to spend money finding out what people think. "

"Polls are not conducted for the good of the world. They are conducted for a reason – either to gain helpful information or to advance a particular cause."

[snip]

"Likewise, reporting on a survey by a special-interest group is tricky. For example, an environmental group trumpets a poll saying the American people support strong measures to protect the environment. That may be true, but the poll was conducted for a group with definite views. That may have swayed the question wording, the timing of the poll, the group interviewed and the order of the questions. You should carefully examine the poll to be certain that it accurately reflects public opinion and does not simply push a single viewpoint." [4]

Also discussed in the NCPP article are the subjects of the specifics of the questions asked and question order. [5] [6]

Around two weeks ago I began asking the folks at UVM's Center for Rural Studies about the poll. They were unable to provide the questions or answers about the order of questions since the "data" had been provided to a client, and I was then referred to Tom DeSisto.  This week DeSisto got back to me and said:
"... We did collect data in 2006 for the Second Vermont Republic as part of an annual poll we conduct on a variety of Vermont issues."
So, now we know.  According to the person responsible for UVM's 2006 Vermonter Poll, the data was collected for SVR.  The poll that SVR has repeatedly referred to without ever once providing specific details as to the questions, question order, results or the fact that they were the "client" in the first place, was their poll all along and not, as they have tried to lead the press and the public to believe, a UVM poll.  UVM's CRS merely collected the data for SVR.

Thomas Naylor and the SVR need to come clean on their involvement in the poll. They need to provide the specifics so that Vermonters can judge the results for themselves and SVR should not continue with this spoon feeding of so-called data that seems to have been designed to puff up their "product."

8 Comments:

At Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 3:32:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rowley,
You succeeded in publicizing one true fact. The controversial connection between some SVR advisors and the League of the South. That was valid information for people to know.

Since then Naylor has gone ballistic, Odum has resigned, there is news all over the place, and everyone is pissed off. You have learned a lot from FOX news. Just stay on the attack and will make news. You must be happy. You've managed to wreck several peoples lives already, and you've gotten publicity, a blogger's heaven. Too bad no one knows your name.

Your hit piece on Tue. Feb. 27 was especially reprehensible for your smear of Naylor by connecting him with his racist father. How would you like it if someone did that to you?

Since I co-wrote the Vermonter Poll questions I could easily tell you all about it, but since you have no interest in objective reporting, only attack journalism, why should I bother?

I will tell you this, there was no attempt to "puff up the product". We don't have to "come clean" since there was no effort to hide our involvement. As stated by CRS, the Vermonter poll is conducted annually by the Center for Rural Studies on questions about Vermont issues. It is a scientific poll with a predicted accuracy of +-4% with a 95% confidence interval. CRS is the US census bureau office in case there is any question about their methods or credibility. Many researchers and organizations use it since it is affordable and credible.

It was not designed as a "push" poll. The survey experts at CRS advised us on constructing questions as objectively as possible. They advised us to start general and get more specific, as a common method. Information was provided about the previous status of Vermont as independent from 1777-1791. We thought it important to know. Of course there could be accusations of bias since we wrote the questions, but they were asked by CRS staff, as are all Vermonter poll questions.

If you get off attack mode you might learn something.

 
At Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 4:08:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Rowley! The racist fuckwads have been reduced to whining and simpering anonymously!

 
At Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 5:09:00 PM EST , Blogger Thomas Rowley said...

>>You succeeded in publicizing one true fact. The controversial connection between some SVR advisors and the League of the South. That was valid information for people to know.<<

TR: There has been much more than one true fact and you know that. That is why you posted a response here, no?

>>Since then Naylor has gone ballistic, Odum has resigned, there is news all over the place, and everyone is pissed off. You have learned a lot from FOX news. Just stay on the attack and will make news. You must be happy. You've managed to wreck several peoples lives already, and you've gotten publicity, a blogger's heaven.<<

TR: And that isn't an attack? That's been the SVR war room's stance since the very first revelation. Look at the metaphors that you guys have been slinging from the start. I've tried to stay away from such comparative statements, as much as I could, but that seems to be the only tool in the toolbox for your group. Aren't you guys ever going to learn anything?

Publicity? Given how paranoid all of you at SVR have sounded, I know that this won't be believable to you, but I couldn't care less about publicity. Any bad publicity has been all of your own making.

>>Too bad no one knows your name.<<

TR: ...said anonymous. ;) Given your cult leader's reaction, anonymity looks more and more like the smarter and safer course. Once he crossed the line that he did, people shouldn't trust that he won't have the good sense not to cross some others. I mean, look at some of his associations that go back for years.

And even more to the point, why do you feel it "too bad that no one knows" my "name," hmmm? It's a common practice among would-be abusers to hide threats in double meanings. Given how your boss has behaved that's probably not a smart area to venture into, no?

>>Your hit piece on Tue. Feb. 27 was especially reprehensible for your smear of Naylor by connecting him with his racist father.<<

TR: Not really. When you take into consideration Naylor's writing from years ago on race, segregation, "forced" integration ("forced" be a segregationist code word), his comments on city populations and the like, his father is a factor to consider, as in an apple that hasn't fallen particularly far from a very rotted tree.

>>How would you like it if someone did that to you?<<

TR: Couldn't happen. My family was among the victims.

>>Since I co-wrote the Vermonter Poll questions I could easily tell you all about it, but since you have no interest in objective reporting, only attack journalism, why should I bother?<<

TR: Another mistake you've made is saying this is journalism. But then that's all that you really have in your arsenal, isn't it? Strawman arguments. And then the dodge about "not bothering," as though that's ever going to be bought by anyone other than a SVR supprter

>>I will tell you this, there was no attempt to "puff up the product". We don't have to "come clean" since there was no effort to hide our involvement. As stated by CRS, the Vermonter poll is conducted annually by the Center for Rural Studies on questions about Vermont issues. It is a scientific poll with a predicted accuracy of +-4% with a 95% confidence interval.<<

TR: That's ducking the ethical question here. Journalist have used this so-called shifting data that Naylor's presented as having come from CRS when, as you've now admitted, you guys were the clients. Re-read point #2 in the post above and stop trying to spin this. You got caught and now you want to find something, anything, no matter how vague or irrelevant, that you can point to so that you might deflect attention.

How much effort is there in hiding involvement each and every time that your group has used the poll to promote secession by omitting each time the fact of your involvement? Why don't we leave that to Vermonters to decide?

>>CRS is the US census bureau office in case there is any question about their methods or credibility.<<

TR: That's another strawman. Keep trying to deflect - something may stick yet.

>>Many researchers and organizations use it since it is affordable and credible.<<

TR: Which begs the question, why did you guys keep referring to it in a way that would not reveal that you were the client? You're not claiming that to have been the ethical course, are you?

>>It was not designed as a "push" poll. The survey experts at CRS advised us on constructing questions as objectively as possible. They advised us to start general and get more specific, as a common method. Information was provided about the previous status of Vermont as independent from 1777-1791. We thought it important to know. Of course there could be accusations of bias since we wrote the questions, but they were asked by CRS staff, as are all Vermonter poll questions.<<

TR: I guess we're just to take your word on all that, what with your all having been so forthcoming in the past, right "anonymous?"

Are you ever going to come clean and authorize the release of all the data from CRS? Will you authorize CRS to disclose their discussions with you? Or are Vermonters just to take the vague word of an "'anonymous' co-writer of the Vermonter poll questions." Hell, you haven't even confirmed how many questions there were. And I haven't even asked you yet what was left out of the past, and your present, representations. Consider coming clean a step in the direction of restoration of trust.

You do trust Vermonters to know what to do with the facts, don't you?

>>If you get off attack mode you might learn something.<<

TR: In fact, that's all I've ever tried to do, was to learn something. But once I saw the type of people you associate yourselves with, I knew to take care. Look at what your boss tried to do to John Odum, since you yourself have raised that point here.

Not that you'd ever ask for advice yourself but since you giving it out so freely, here's mine to you:

Try adopting a more conciliatory tone. The attack model based on your boss' isn't really working so well for you.

 
At Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 10:47:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>You succeeded in publicizing one true fact. The controversial connection between some SVR advisors and the League of the South. That was valid information for people to know.<<

anonymous:
I AM being conciliatory. I gave you credit for this.

TR: There has been much more than one true fact and you know that. That is why you posted a response here, no?

anonymous:
No, that's about it. I posted here in order to attempt to stop the mutual attacks, and give you some information you asked for. But you have demonstrated that you are incapable of having a civil conversation. See parentheses below:

TR: ...said anonymous. ;) Given your cult leader's reaction,

(accuse Naylor of being a cult leader)

anonymity looks more and more like the smarter and safer course. Once he crossed the line that he did, people shouldn't trust that he won't have the good sense not to cross some others. I mean, look at some of his associations that go back for years.

(guilt by association: McCarthyite tactic)

TR: Not really. When you take into consideration Naylor's writing from years ago on race, segregation, "forced" integration ("forced" be a segregationist code word), his comments on city populations and the like, his father is a factor to consider, as in an apple that hasn't fallen particularly far from a very rotted tree.

(Insult Naylor's father, and directly accuse Naylor of racism)

>>How would you like it if someone did that to you?<<

TR: Couldn't happen. My family was among the victims.

anonymous:
I am sorry you feel victimized, but that is no reason to continue the cycle of abuse.

TR: Another mistake you've made is saying this is journalism. But then that's all that you really have in your arsenal, isn't it? Strawman arguments.

(Insult my intelligence)


TR: That's ducking the ethical question here. Journalist have used this so-called shifting data that Naylor's presented as having come from CRS when, as you've now admitted, you guys were the clients. Re-read point #2 in the post above and stop trying to spin this. You got caught and now you want to find something, anything, no matter how vague or irrelevant, that you can point to so that you might deflect attention.

(dissembling, lying, spinning, manipulating)

How much effort is there in hiding involvement each and every time that your group has used the poll to promote secession by omitting each time the fact of your involvement?

anonymous:
There is nothing to hide. CRS told you we paid for it. I told we paid for it. What more do you want?

Why don't we leave that to Vermonters to decide?

Good idea.

TR: Which begs the question, why did you guys keep referring to it in a way that would not reveal that you were the client?

anonymous:
We didn't. The Vermonter poll has many clients. We are just one of them.

Are you ever going to come clean

(accuse us again of hiding something)

and authorize the release of all the data from CRS? Will you authorize CRS to disclose their discussions with you?

anonymous:
CRS is not authorized to release client's data. That would violate confidentiality. But that is a very good idea to publish the whole poll results. They are interesting. We have published parts of it, but not the whole thing.


Or are Vermonters just to take the vague word of an "'anonymous' co-writer of the Vermonter poll questions." Hell, you haven't even confirmed how many questions there were.

There were 4 questions. We would be glad to release all the data, but not here. Stay tuned.

I gave you an opportunity and all you have done in your response is attack and insult me and SVR. I am not going to post here anymore. Goodbye.

 
At Friday, March 2, 2007 at 2:48:00 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Rowley, I have just one question whoes answer is not clear: Are you for Vermont secession but against SVR because of their ties to the League of the South (and other questionable groups), are are you against secession in its entirety?

 
At Friday, March 2, 2007 at 3:12:00 PM EST , Blogger Thomas Rowley said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At Friday, March 2, 2007 at 5:18:00 PM EST , Anonymous F. Peter said...

Mr. Rowley,

I apologize for misleading you in the last post. I am not one of the SVR members looking for more information to defend their position. I went with "anonymous" simply because I do not have an account.

I came across this entire debate on accident, and have since been following it out of curiousity. The notion for secession is an interesting one, as it brings up possibilities and consequences alike. However, SVR's decision on allies is also interesting. I was just interested in your position as a whole on the entire secession issue, but I understand why you may be timid to do so while supporters of Mr. Naylor are looking for any and all excuses at this point to use in their favor.

F. Peter

 
At Friday, March 2, 2007 at 9:11:00 PM EST , Blogger Thomas Rowley said...

Not a problem, FP. With all the anonymity going on here, it's easy to get confused. There's been one poster who came here and ducked the central questions, doing much the same schtick as the first anonymous above, who I since found was someone who's posted elsewhere that he's a board member at SVR (confused yet?).

I too found the notion of secession interesting. But I'm also aware of some of the lonstanding neo-Confederate history to this thing. The VT press had been writing about SVR repeatedly and never noted the LoS connection or the real history associated with secession in this country, just the SVR spin. They've also quoted the poll representations from SVR without doing the normally obligatory fact checking on the poll. 7Days has missed it all twice.

I've been called a number of things by SVR members and their racist associates but timid hasn't been one of them, so that gave me a smile. "My position on Vermont secession was firmly "undecided" but after seeing what these would-be leaders insist on doing, both in terms of standing fast on associating with outright bigots, and in their attacks on individual Vermonters and their families, I'm not seeing them as the possessors of a solution that I'd want to be a part of. And frankly, I don't think people like me would fare too well in their "new Vermont."

Hope this addresses your question sufficiently, although I don't believe that my own position merits much importance. I'll remove that initial response to mitigate the confusion.

Thanks for stopping by,
T.

 

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