Analysis


Fun With Numbers
Or…
How Figures Lie And Liars Figure

By: Jack Koenig, Executive Director
Expert Source Bureau
 

Background

A poll conducted by/for the Federation of American Societies For Experimental Biology  (FASEB) claims a dramatic shift in the creation/evolution debate. According to their report,” 61% of Americans believe in evolution!

Since this represented an incredible shift from recent Gallup polls showing 13% of Americans accepted evolution without guidance and 38% accepted evolution with guidance, the Expert Source Bureau questioned how such a “sea change” could occur in such a short period of time.

Methodology

The FASEB poll was based on a national survey of 1000 likely voters, which in itself violated one of the basic tenets for a valid survey: inclusiveness. By confining the poll to “likely voters,” approximately 36% of the population was immediately excluded from participation. Such machinations run counter to generally accepted polling practicesą and bring into question the poll’s very integrity.

The 1000 “Likely Voters” were divided into two equal groups of 500, “Group A” and “Group B.” Each group was then given a qualifying question, effectively eliminating anyone not agreeing with some form of evolution. This action also violated one of the basic rules for a valid poll: maintaining the integrity of the initial populationą.

Group A
Group A’s qualifying question was whether they believed "all living things having evolved over time"

  • 61% (305/500) agreed with the premise "all living things having evolved over time. We will call these survivors “Group A1”
  • 39% (195/500) disagreed or refused to comment, and were eliminated from the survey, violating generally accepted polling practicesą.
    •  
      Group A1 (from above)
      This surviving portion of “Group A” (those agreeing with the premise "all living things having evolved over time") was then asked: “do you believe humans evolved through natural selection or do you believe a Supreme Being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating life in the form it exists today."

      • 36% (110) agreed with the premise humans "evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection,”
      • 25% (76) believed a  “Supreme Being” was involved in the process
      • 39% (119) participants did not agree with either premise or simply refused to participate further. They were removed from the poll’s bottom line, once again violating generally accepted polling practicesą. We’ll refer to these discarded people as “Group A2”
         
        • Group A Summary:
          In summarizing “Group A’s” results, we will use the original 500 population as the base in accordance with generally accepted polling practices

          • 22% (110/500) believed “all living things evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection”
          • 15% (76/500) believed a  “Supreme Being” was involved in the process
          • 63% ({195 + 119}/500) did not believe any such thing, considered the question too ambiguous to answer, or simply refused to participate further! They were removed from further consideration and dropped from the poll’s bottom line, once again violating generally accepted polling practicesą.

Group B
Group B’s qualifying question was whether they believed "humans and other living things” evolved over time.

  • 53% (265) agreed with the premise "humans and other living things” did evolve over time. We’ll call these survivors “Group B1.”
  • 47% (235) disagreed or refused to comment and were eliminated from the survey, once again violating generally accepted polling practicesą. We’ll refer to these discarded people as “Group B2”
     
    • Group B1 from above:
      The surviving portion of “Group B” (265 members) was then asked whether “humans and other living things evolved through natural processes” or whether they believed they had “evolved with guidance.”

      • 32% (85/265) agreed with the statement “humans and other living things evolved through natural processes”
      • 21% (56/265) believed a “Supreme Being” was evolved in any evolutionary process
      • 47% (124/265) did not agree with either premise or refused to answer and were dropped from the poll’s bottom line, once again violating generally accepted polling practicesą.

        • Group B Summary:
          In summarizing “Group B’s” results, we will use the original 500 population as the base in accordance with generally accepted polling practices:

          • 17% (85/500) believed “humans and other living things evolved through natural processesą”
          • 11% (56/500) believed a  “Supreme Being” was involved in the process
          • 72% ({235 + 124}/500) did not believe any such thing, considered the question too ambiguous to answer, or simply refused to participate further! They were removed from further consideration and dropped from the poll’s bottom line, once again violating generally accepted polling practicesą.

Summary
Now that we have all made the numbers in the FASEB report a little easier to comprehend, let’s try to legitimize the poll somewhat by including ALL participants in the bottom line numbers as required by generally accepted polling practicesą. 

  • 19.5% ({110 from Group A1 + 85 from Group B1}/1000) believe in natural evolution
  • 13.2% ({76 from Group A1 + 56 from Group B1}/1000) believe a Supreme Being was involved in any evolutionary process
  • 67.3% ({195 Group A1 + 119 Group A2 + 235 Group B1 + 124 Group B2}/1000) either did not agree with evolution, considered the questions too ambiguous, or simply refused to answer

The bottom line is those agreeing with the natural evolution position is not 61% as the FASEB reported, but rather 19.5%. This is slightly less than 1/3rd of the numbers claimed in the FASEB’s headline.

Surprised by the deceitfulness of this poll?

Probably not if you’ve been listening to the skewed information surrounding the global warming debate. Although one might consider this simply another “advocacy poll” promoting a given position, it is so off the wall it’s an embarrassment to the polling industry. It’s also a classic example of the old adage “figures lie and liars figure.” Perhaps the poll’s authors wanted to demonstrate their own version of “natural selection” by eliminating those not supporting their myopic views.

ą Twenty Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results – National Council on Public Polls)

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