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Numerical illiteracy at the Herald

Written By: - Date published: 1:21 pm, April 29th, 2015 - 46 comments
Categories: David Farrar, Media, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , , , ,

Today, we see a Herald ‘editor’ demonstrating exactly how useless they are at interpreting polls. Their editorial says 

The result of our poll today could suggest voters will forgive any foolish behaviour from this Prime Minister.

Huh? Ponygate only started late last week. When was the poll taken? Audrey Young says in her linked article

Half of the poll was conducted before the news broke that he had repeatedly pulled the ponytail of a waitress at a Parnell cafe despite her annoyance, and half of the poll was conducted after it.

And way way down the end of article

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken between April 17 to 26.

A light dawns. We have people who either don’t understand polling or dates or someone wilfully covering their knowledge… I’m going to show you a public graph of the page views from The Daily Blog who broke the story covering those dates.

The first post at The Daily Blog was on Wednesday, after the poll had already been running for 3 week days and 2 weekend days.

The Daily Blog page views

So on Wednesday, the news was breaking after the story was in TDB in the morning. It was picked up by media through the day, but only really to people actively political and embedded in twitter. It wasn’t until the afternoon after journalists got confirmation from John Key about its essential accuracy that the story went wild.

You can see this in the figures from TDB. I observed that most of their page views for the 22nd were after the evening news on the 22nd. They nearly doubled their page views on the following day when people were reading it in their newspapers. Virtually all of the views were likely to be on the two posts that featured on those two days. The numbers of the otherwise useless “unique visits” almost equalled the number of page views. This indicates that almost all of the page views came direct from links from other sources like social media directly to a post, rather than via the front page of the site (as woudl happen if directed from print of visual media).

The boosted page views was almost entirely from social media if it was anything like our smaller bumped linkages for those three days.

Realistically most people in a poll would have only become aware of the story on the Thursday when they were still reacting to it and making up their minds. They immediately ran into a long weekend with many people leaving work and home on the Friday.

But even without the long weekend, the vast majority of the calls making up the poll would have been in the first half of the polling cycle before the story broke. Only a minority of calls in the sample would have been made in the final days of the poll.

The reason for this is because of the way that a statistical sample used in a poll (especially such a small sample) is either balanced against location (random sampling) or against the population demographics like age, gender, etc (quota) or on some combination between the two. This is to ensure that sample statistically is representative in some way to the population that is being sampled.

As Digipoll says

Gathering accurate data is only viable while using a sample that reflects a population. In a scientific survey every member of a population must have an equal opportunity to be questioned.

Companies using bought databases are neglecting this aspect, where as DigiPoll produces random numbers to be used in a sample.

With the emergence of new telephone providers it has become increasingly difficult to produce accurate samples. DigiPoll overcomes this problem by having continuously updated “telephone maps” of populations. Accurate maps are also vital for representing ethnic minorities and other hard to reach groups.

and

Weighting survey responses is designed to remove bias from a survey sample and make the results better project the target population. DigiPoll has formulated a weighting methodology that is applied to the raw data in order to reflect the demographic composition of the sample, which has been proven to be successful time and time again.

Almost all of the tail end of a poll is finding the final instances of the types of people who match the missing profile required by the sampling technique. This is the reason why most polls reflect public opinions towards the start of the polling period.

So when the Audrey Young writes

The ponytail-pulling antics of Prime Minister John Key appear to have had no immediate impact on his party or personal popularity, the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey suggests.

Half of the poll was conducted before the news broke that he had repeatedly pulled the ponytail of a waitress at a Parnell cafe despite her annoyance, and half of the poll was conducted after it.

What she is mostly suggesting to anyone with a brain is that she should get an education in basic statistics and polling sampling techniques

When that the anonymous editorial author states

The fact that his support from polled voters is undiminished by the disclosure of his penchant for pulling a young woman’s ponytail may have something to do with his response.

The only fact that they are demonstrating is that they are a politically ignorant jackass. Mind you they prove that by then stating

In the meantime, the unusually sustained popularity of the PM is causing intense frustration among his opponents, not so much in Parliament but outside it, on websites and in some academic circles where resentment has become extreme. These people are doing their cause no favours with their seething hatred of a political figure who everyone else knows to be an economic moderate and social liberal. They are not helping Labour’s recovery, still below 30 per cent in this poll, and the Greens remain around 10 per cent.

What a complete and utter dimwit. After running this very open, public, and largely uncensored webite (at least compared to the Herald) for so many years, I can testify that all social media is are people directly expressing their own feelings and reactions to political events. With a relatively few exceptions like David Farrar or Cameron Slater, they aren’t doing for a particular political party, they are doing it because they like expressing themselves clearly and accurately.

In mature social media channels authors or all kinds get checked in what they say by the many other people who also write around an write around an increasingly sophisticated social media communicating without the filter of various broadcast media like newspapers.

What the Herald is demonstrating is that the quality of the newspaper has descended to farcical levels of inaccurate and cloistered stupidity. But this isn’t exactly surprising after the events of last week.

At the Herald we saw the inexcusable lack of journalistic ethics displayed by editor Shayne Currie in trying to excuse the ghastly behaviour of the gossip ‘journalist’ Rachel Glucina.

How this Herald reporter got in contact with the owners of Hip Group and obtained a interview with Amanda Bailey under false pretences isn’t quite clear. Mainly because The Herald in all of their carefully worded ‘explanations’ seems to have resorted to lying by omission. They completely excluded the level of permission sought and gained from Amanda Bailey and if she even sighted the comments attributed to her.

But it is pretty clear that the interview was gained with deliberate deception and lying to Amanda Bailey by Rachel Glucina and probably her ex-employers in violation of any decent level of journalism or management ethics.

With their actions supporting the disgusting Rachel Glucina, the Herald editorial staff has actively condoned one of the most heinous violations of journalist ethics I have seen in NZ. Now they seem to be adding stupid inaccuracy to it as well.


 

If anyone wants to sue me over my words here, then I’ll be happy to publish any discoveries that I make during the court process.

 

 

 

46 comments on “Numerical illiteracy at the Herald ”

  1. Karen 1

    Great post. I hadn’t thought about most of the data being collected in the first period of polling, but of course you are right. It also takes a while for these things to sink in.

    That said, Labour have been missing in action it seems to me, and with the Greens are absorbed by their leadership contest, I wasn’t surprised by the lack in improvement in their polling. Labour, in particular, need to do better.

    As for the ability for Glucina to get access to the Hip Group directors, I would say the fact her twin brother Henry has a mangerial position with them may have something to do with it.

    • Very difficult for Labour to comment aggressively, Karen. If Andrew Little had said anything while in Turkey with the NZ delegation, he would have been accused of politicising the ANZAC commemoration. Annette King did pretty well in his absence and of course Winston and the Greens also kicked in. But, as others have pointed out in the comments, the opposition have to tread a fine line between genuine outrage at what Key has done and being perceived as just trying to score political points. the latter is a turn off for voters.

      • Sacha 1.1.1

        Voters do not need much help understanding this soo long as the facts are reinforced for them. NGOs responded quickly. Reacting won’t help the political opposition parties, as noted.

      • Karen 1.1.2

        I didn’t mean commenting about Key harassing the waitress. Labour did as much as they needed to in response to that.

        My concern is that Labour MPs seem to be treating the parliamentary break as holiday. Now they may be beavering away, but if so, they are very quiet about what they are doing. It isn’t as if there isn’t a lot that needs addressing.

        I’d like to see some MPs getting together on some issues (there are plenty of them) and bombarding the media with material, rather than working individually. I’d also like to see them working with the Greens on some issues, but accept that won’t be happening until the new co-leader has been elected.

        • te reo putake 1.1.2.1

          Ah, sorry, should have picked that up, Karen. I do know that Labour are preparing for their regional conferences over the next few weeks and the MP’s are all involved with trying to make them a springboard for regenerating Labour’s electoral appeal by energising activists and members and working on the policy platforms that NZ needs.

    • Tracey 1.2

      The greens have made about 5 press releases in the last week. THAT the MSM don’t republish them is not indicative of their advocacy.

      The cafe owners said they knew Rachel Glucina

  2. Sabine 2

    you used the word stupid, but you should have used willful.

    _Now they seem to be adding “willful” inaccuracy to it as well_

    The opposition, regardless of the color of their party should stop using the word “stupid”.
    Nothing what national has done over the last years was stupid, it is short sighted, for short term monetary gain, for personal gratification, to get their due or what evs, but it is not stupid.
    And we should not give them a way out by using the word stupid, oh who would have thunk that they waitress does not like hair pulling, who would have thunk that the young mother on a benefit would have a hard time in her small village once Mrs. Bennett plasters her private details all over the media, who would have thought that this or that could go wrong etc etc etc. They don’t care, they have only their benefits and gratification in mind, and as i said in the Post about Audrey Young ‘I am so embarrassed by this hair pulling story”, she is only embarrassed because John Key was embarrassed. She will carry water for him, and she will willfully misrepresent polling numbers / data, knowing full well that most people that read the herald will not apply scrutiny to her words, less would the large majority of people know who, how, and with whom this poll was conducted.

    Not stupid, Willful deception of the public by our journalists who do nothing but cover their arses. One wonders what they have on them.

    • lprent 2.1

      I’m not that interested in why they do things. I’m more interested in what they do.

      Making such a silly mistake in a major newspaper when reporting their own poll, that they paid for, just looks completely stupid and outright insane to me.

      Just as their continued stupid support for Rachel Glucina, the arsehole of journalism, looks to me. She screwed over yet a another victim of her ‘interviewing technique’ . It isn’t the first time she has used deception and lies to get interviews in this kind of manner far outside the bounds of anything to do with public interest.

      • Bearded Git 2.1.1

        Is it stupid or outrageously biased journalism? I think the latter.

        The next Roy Morgan will be interesting.

      • lprent 2.1.2

        Yep. I wouldn’t expect precipitous shifts. It should start collecting in early May and run to mid-May (they appear to be running monthly at present).

        But I wouldn’t expect that we’d see a massive effect, just a moderate shift in government/opposition blocs. It takes a while (weeks and months) for the effects of this type of story to penetrate to polls. Even more before you can see a trend past the noise in this country with so few overlapping polls.

        • jenny kirk 2.1.2.1

          But during the May period when polling starts, or just before, there will be some massive publicity about something ShonKey is doing ……. when is Prince Harry due to come ? ? and that will screw the polling again .

  3. northshoreguynz 3

    I suspect they knew exactly what they were doing. Running the party line.

  4. John 4

    Just when you though it wasn’t humanly possibly to get more anally retentive about minutiae…………..

    Get a life.

    [lprent: I have a life. But I just don’t have your fascination with rectal mechanics. Perhaps you should get that checked out? You appear to have a blockage on that subject that most children get over before they go to school. ]

    • And yet, here you are, John, making the same comment on two different posts. Anally retentive about minutiae much?

    • Tracey 4.2

      the women and children of NZ thank you for your concern “John”.

      your namesake didnt consider that botching up the exit from NZ of a person accused of attempted rape serious enough for an apology , just minutiae wouldn’t you agree?

    • Sacha 4.3

      Cos history has taught us that journalistic ethics have no effect on democracy, eh.

    • swordfish 4.4

      …to get more anally retentive about minutiae….

      Ahhh, no. If you fire up the chemical interactions between your 2 remaining braincells for a minute, I think you’ll find that this “minutiae” actually goes right to the heart of whether or not Ponygate’s had any immediate impact on Key’s personal popularity and National’s party support. A fairly important issue, I would have thought.

      The Herald suggests the evidence is in and the answer is an emphatic ‘No’. 1Prent’s analysis says the evidence isn’t even remotely there and we’ll have to wait for the next series of polls.

  5. Tracey 5

    Given the “facts” that seem to be gleanable (new word) from the four versions of the Herald’s response to the allegation its reporter misled the waitress, the Herald is nOT impartial in wanting to see this issue die and quickly.l

  6. John 6

    Exactly – that’s a minute of my life wasted – better than hours and days and weeks though.

  7. vto 7

    It needs to be repeated repeatedly…

    the Herald is owned by some of the richest and most right wing people on the planet – what do you expect?

    the Herald is compromised to uselessness

    and by not declaring this it hides it from its readers in a deceitful fashion

  8. weka 8

    In mature social media channels authors or all kinds get checked in what they say by the many other people who also write around an write around an increasingly sophisticated

    Unfinished thought?

    Great post. What a bunch of numpties for those involved at the Herald, a hard place to work for others I suspect. Audrey Young’s headline is blatantly biased and misleading.

  9. One Anonymous Bloke 9

    To be fair, it’s no secret that many journalists are innumerate.

    That doesn’t excuse The Herald‘s incompetence.

  10. SHG 10

    Most of those pageviews will be TDB regulars posting and refreshing to see replies and replying and refreshing to see replies to the replies to the replies, over and over again.

    or, put another way, the Prime Minister’s approval rating is not affected by how often people post that he’s the Antichrist at TDB.

    • lprent 10.1

      Nope. You really didn’t understand the comment about unique visitors visits and page views did you?

      It is a pattern. Normally TDB runs at a page ratio of somewhere around 1.6 pages per visit using the statcounters version of unique visits. The Standard runs at about 2.2 on statcounter. Transportblog is ridiculously low at something like 1.1 because of their professional audience.

      These are stable even to a daily level. They are long term trends that all sites have, and they indicate the pattern that their readers have in reading the site. If you look at Open Parachute, you’ll find just how stable they are. It is only when a site manages to shift its audience (or in Whaleoil’d case when they change their cheat mechanism) that they change.

      Wednesday to Friday, TDB shifted abruptly to a pattern of 1.2-1.3, and during parts of the day went down as low as 1.1. That is a classic social media link pattern.

      What you are describing would have had the opposite effect, it would have increased the page counts per visit.

    • freedom 10.2

      SHG, on a post about numeric illiteracy you decided to live the dream huh

      Unique Visits
      mon 5.8 k
      tues 4.8 k
      wed 52.6 k -story broke
      thur 97.2 k

      or do just not understand what the word “unique” means

      • lprent 10.2.1

        Unique visits doesn’t mean unique visitors, which is the point that SHG was making.

        What it means is that at least once every half hour to a particular person of a browser, a page was served. But people who persistently frequent a site in the manner he was describing would usually refresh their page or look at a new page more than once during half an hour.

        SHG’s fallacy was that the behaviour he was suggesting would increase the average number of pages per visit (which is what we see when we get a hot commenting post), whereas in fact the pages per visit decreased (which is what we see when we get a hot social media post)

        Basically SHG was being as stupid and wilfully ignorant as the Herald editor who wrote that editorial today.

        • freedom 10.2.1.1

          lPrent, thanks, I did have the very misconception you noted.
          Big clutch of eggs on my face for sure.

          SHG, sorry, I’ll try to be more sure of my facts in future.

          • lprent 10.2.1.1.1

            My fault. I typo’ed on my comment. fixed now.

          • SHG 10.2.1.1.2

            Sites like the TDB (and this one, and Kiwiblog) are where people go to agree with each other. So a massive increase in traffic to TDB means that for a brief period of time there were more John-Key-hating people there than usual, all agreeing on how much they hate John Key. No-one who likes John Key would have visited TDB and come away hating John Key, and no-one who hates John Key would have come away liking him. TDB is not a site that changes people’s minds, no matter how much traffic it gets. It’s a site where people who have made up their minds go to be reassured that they’ve made up their minds in the right way.

            So I expect there to be no correlation between TDB traffic and the Prime Minister’s approval ratings at all.

            • lprent 10.2.1.1.2.1

              You forget one basic and obvious thing – social media.

              In all likelihood this influx of extra readers came almost entirely from a major burst of people coming in to read Amanda Bailey’s two posts. I would also take a further bet that 70% or more of them were women. I think that most came in from the non-political social networks directed by their mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. They certainly were here on those days, and we were just getting the sidewash.

              John Key has a major political problem. He has just had the most slow to move but intensely judgemental part of the NZ political system have a very good look at a woman describing what he is like when he is around his wife doing unwanted flirting and playing power games with a young woman. I suspect he had a moral judgement made against him.

              Bomber and most of the usual political crew at TDB had the good sense to stay out of it for the a crucial two days.

              Don’t you understand how electoral politics operates in NZ?

    • adam 10.3

      SHG, That’s an interesting analysis of John Key, via the daily blog (TDB). I find most Christians who leave comments on the TDB, never call Key the Antichrist. Most, would rather point out this is a very unchristian like government.

      The Antichrist is end of days hyperbole we constantly hear from the Christian right, who have very very many odd views. And quite frankly they don’t talk for all Christians. Like Christian socialist don’t talk for all Christians.

  11. Pat 11

    this is simply the Heralds way of telling the greater public how to view the events highlighted this past week….sadly it will be effective for a segment of their readership

    • Paul 11.1

      That’s why they did it.
      Sadly there are too many sheep in New Zealand.

      • Pat 11.1.1

        maaaah….that would be the way many would view it….the thing that far to many fail to understand is that not everybody has the same thought processes…strange but true

  12. Liberal Realist 12

    Fantastic analysis LP. Thank you.

  13. Incognito 13

    “DigiPoll general manager Nandan Modak says National dropped 0.7 percentage points in the second half of the polling while Mr Key dropped 0.8 points.”

    http://home.nzcity.co.nz/news/article.aspx?id=205883&fm=psp,tst

  14. Incognito 14

    The paragraph about the weighting bothers me, mainly because I don’t know what’s going on. In any case, it seems that the published “results” are not the raw data!?

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      Raw data is essentially useless. It has no context or pretty much anything else meaning that it can’t really tell you anything. Basically, it’s meaningless numbers and not information.

      To turn raw data into information requires work. In terms of polling that means ensuring that the people polled have the same demographic break down as NZ and then the results are then put through some formula that refines it even further.

    • lprent 14.2

      No they aren’t raw. Virtually no polling data is.

  15. Sable 15

    Is the Herald owned by the National party? You have to wonder……

  16. Old Mickey 16

    NZ Shite Daily (formerly NZ Herald) continues to sink to new lows. I bet editor Tim Murphy must be so proud…..

  17. Dave Head 17

    The only poll [pole] that I am interested in is the one that could be used as a petard to hoist some anal retentive person and his shonkey mate up on!

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