Posts Tagged survey

Bad News Prediction: Gossip, Girls!

Regular readers of this site – albeit ones with long memories (I’ve been bad for the whole blogging malarky for a while, I know) – will know that from time to time I like to take a punt on what I think will be in the newspapers soon, to see how good my predictive PR powers are. Here’s a quick, very short and possibly utterly wrong prediction:

Gossip, Girls! How British Women Are Queens Of The Chinwag

British women really are queens of gossip, chattering more than twice as often as men, according to the latest research.

More than half of British women admit to gossiping more than once a day, with many confessing to spending over 600 hours each year discussing the latest celebrity news, with men trailing behind with under 300 hours each year.

Top topics for girly gossip included football veteran and alleged philanderer Ryan Giggs, and new addition to the Royal family and national sweetheart Pippa Middleton.

The survey, carried out by <total guess here – The Carphone Warehouse>, questioned 3000 people as part of the launch of their new <phone/contract/promotion>.

Top 5 gossip topics

  1. Ryan Giggs
  2. Pippa Middleton
  3. Britain’s Got Talent
  4. Cheryl Cole
  5. The Royal Wedding

Now, as I say, all of this is pure prediction, and like all predictions it might fall flat on its face! The gender angle is a bit of a guess, as is the number of hours per year, but I’ve a good feeling about a few of the other details. I’ll let you know if it pans out!

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Bad News: Are Kids Turning Their Backs On Sports?

The following is taken in part from Episode 46 of our podcast ‘Skeptics with a K’, give or take the odd addition.

A generation of children ‘turn their backs on sport’ – so said the BBC recently. And they weren’t alone, with similar stories gracing the pages of the Daily Mail, The Independent and pretty much every other media outlet going. But I’ll focus on the BBC, because I respect them most. Moving on with the story:

A generation of British children are turning their backs on sport and physical activity, a survey suggests.

The poll for British Triathlon and Tata Steel suggests 10% cannot ride a bike and 15% cannot swim.

Connoisseurs of my PR takedowns in the past will spot the brand names right there in paragraph two – British Triathlon and Tata Steel. The latter are a steelworking giant who sponsor the Tata Kids Of Steel – a community programme to drive kids into exercise, and in particular into the swimming, bike-riding and running that constitutes the triathlon, as promoted by British Triathlon.

Now, it’s worth pointing out at this point – just because the British Triathlon federation and its corporate sponsor Tata Steel have a vested interest in telling the world that children are no longer riding bicycles and swimming and generally triathlonning, it doesn’t mean the survey involved here is dodgy. But it does mean we should be treading a little carefully, and we should certainly be examining the claims being made perhaps a little more skeptically than if an entirely independent body were making the same claims.

As a brief aside at this point, it’s worth pointing out that the first thing I thought when I glanced over this story was ‘who are Tata Steel’ and ‘what have they got to do with sports’ – questions which were soon answered with a mild Google. These big businesses aren’t stupid, and I’d speculate that for every pound spent on this sports initiative, a corporate sponsor would see two pounds or more come back to them in either goodwill, reputational benefit, or convenient blind-eyes to some of the inevitably murkier elements of a large-scale industrial business.

Anyway, back to the BBC, and the story we’re being cautiously skeptical about, and here come the statistics Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad PR: Misogyny on the Bounty

As readers of this site will probably know, I have a bit of a beef when it comes to bullshit PR companies spouting Bad PR, and in particular with a company by the name of OnePoll.com.

OnePoll is an interesting beast – is business model is to pay people around 10p for their participation in a relatively quick online survey, with the idea being that the more surveys you take part in, the more you earn. The upshot of this means the quicker you complete the survey, the faster you can move on to the next one. It also means that when you’re asked a screening question like ‘Are you single or in a relationship?‘, and you can see the name of the survey is ‘Being In Relationships!‘, it’s pretty easy to see that to enter the survey and claim your shiny 10p, you obviously pretend to be in a relationship. Or pretend to be a football fan. Or pretend to be self-employed. Etc. For the sake of your 10p, you enter a load of results which become utterly meaningless.

The speed issue has a knock-on effect elsewhere, too. As I’ve pointed out before, when asked a badly designed question like ‘Which celebrity would you least like to go on holiday with?‘ where the possible responses are from a set list, rather than stopping to think, ‘Actually, I don’t care about any of these people, I’d like to tick the none of the above option, but there isn’t one‘, instead you pick a choice fairly-randomly, fairly-quickly and progress on towards your 10p, and so we get this in the newspapers: Cheryl Cole is celebrity most Brits want to holiday with unlike Katie Price.  I can imagine the most significant factor in these types of questions is often the order the options are presented, rather than their actual content, with a bias towards the options that appear first in the list (that would be my prediction, anyway).

What’s more, to get you started, when you first sign up to One Poll you get something in the region of £2, too – so it feels like a breeze to start really earning. Here’s the kicker though, and of course there is one – before you see a penny of your earnings, you need to accrue £40. At 10p per survey, that’s 400 surveys. I’ve been playing for about months now, and I’m on about £17. So, I can imagine there would be a pretty reasonable fallout rate as people became disillusioned with the process and give up, and thus often OnePoll never have to pay a penny to most of the people they survey. Which makes their business model pretty cheap, then.

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Bad PR: The Adulterated Truth

Getting a PR-fluff-piece into the news is easy, as I’ve shown before – take a survey, manufacture a surprising result (through data-mining, biased sampling or leading questions), and push it out with a shocking headline and a sexy angle. Easy. Here’s the first three paragraphs from an example in the Daily Express, print edition, the other week:

“One in five women would forgive their man for a one-night stand as long as it meant nothing to them.

The figures emerged in a report which also revealed that eight out of 10 Britons couldn’t care less if their partner became involved with someone else, as long as they didn’t have sex.

Despite nine out of 10 women claiming they would dump a man who had regular sex with someone else, millions would forgive indiscretions over the phone or by text, although half of girls still say they would show their partner the door if he kissed another woman.” – Source: Daily Express, 29/09/2010

Prime example, then – sexy angle, backed up with a nice, traditional ‘men cheat, ladies – deal with it’ undertone more in keeping with an episode of the Sopranos than with what most of us would experience in our lives, I’d imagine. On top of that, we have a flurry of statistics, including the up-scaled extrapolation of what ‘millions’ believe, based on the sample data. You’ve five seconds to guess what company appears in the next paragraph, having commissioned the survey. It’s a classic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rude Cockneys, Shrewd Women, Skewed Surveys: Who’d Have Thought It Was All PR?

Few things in life amuse me as much as blatant PR passing off as news. I’ve said that before, and it remains true. So, on this Easter Monday, I thought I’d set you all a little quiz – look at the following headlines, and see if you can guess which company paid for the stories. Got it? Excellent, here we go, answers and analysis below the fold.

  1. Londoners ‘Least Friendly’ in EnglandMetro
  2. Why Women Are Better Handling The Family CashDaily Express
  3. Cheryl Cole Is Celebrity Most Brits Want To Holiday With Unlike Katie PriceMetro
  4. Kids’ £1.8 Billion Repair CostThe Mirror
  5. DIY Ability ‘In The Genes’Press Association

OK, there’s your headlines, have a quick guess (no peeking), answers below.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Surveys On Rape And The Need For Clean Stats

Recently we asked you what really pushes your buttons and makes you angry. You may have answered, you may not – I hadn’t, and didn’t intend to… but bugger it, my spleen needs venting. So here goes – I have a couple of thing that particularly piss me off: psychics are definitely one of them. Sexuality discrimination (in either direction) is very much a second. And another biggie? Bad stats, where it matters.

Now, I appreciate it might seem like a bit of a nothingness, after all. So some numbers get inflated to make it look like men are shitty to their girlfriends, or that knife crime is on the rise, or that more than half of teenage girls are pregnant – these kind of issues might seem relatively minor, if slightly sexist, sensationalist or downright stupid. Nobody’s getting hurt here, you might think, and after all more than 33% of statistics are made up, and over half of the remaining two thirds are meaningless cliche anyway. However, consider the following headline, from Tuesday’s Metro:

One in four women has been raped, a shocking new survey reveals

I think it’s fair to say the statement that 25% of women have been raped is a shocking statement. Truly. If it were, in fact, true. But is it? Well, it’s right there in the headline, and surely nobody running those figures could do so without being 110% sure of their accuracy, and at the very least they’d make sure they were about 4/3rds positive of the interpretation? Well, a little digging around and I was able to locate a summary of the survey this stat was taken from – it was an online survey of 1061 people in London, broken down into 349 men and 712 women. There’s no indication as to how that sample of 1061 people was put together, so any discussion of the stats has to be with the caveat that any potential bias is undisclosed. Interestingly, when looked at in terms of self-defined sexuality there were only 71 homosexual, 52 bisexual and 16 asexual respondents – yet the summary merrily extrapolates the data of around four dozen bisexual respondents into statements of comparative risk Read the rest of this entry »

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