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Statement on MSNBC Workplace Survey

This is a letter to the MSNBC editor from by AAPOR President-Elect Nancy Mathiowetz, in response to MSNBC's  publication of findings from a nonscientific on-line survey in March 2007.

To the Editor:

As president-elect of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), I am appalled by the publication of the bogus survey reported by MSNBC called "Men rule — at least in workplace attitudes" 

The fact is this article, well-written though it may be, is based on something that is decidedly not a valid scientific, nationally-representative survey. And MSNBC should have made that clear from the start. Questions administered to a self-selected audience are one thing; real surveys that use scientifically determined random samples in an attempt to measure a population's attitudes and behaviors accurately are something altogether different.

Indulging in the former is not just harmless fun. Labeling self-selected, online data collection efforts as legitimate survey research are at best misleading and lead to a diminution of the field as a whole.

The survey MSNBC conducted is a grand way to involve readers with their website. Many news organizations use such techniques to enrich their relationships with readers. However, these polls cannot be construed to be a poll representative of anything more than those who chose to take part, and certainly shouldn't be characterized as representative of some larger population.

Although MSNBC.com did include a short note "About the Survey" at the end of the article it appeared too late to be of any value and failed to meet the minimum disclosure requirements supported by AAPOR – which would have alerted readers to its inadequacies.

Perhaps a better title for this story would have been "Men rule – at least according to a lot of people who decided to take part in our online survey and who may or may not be representative of anything."

Sincerely,

Nancy A. Mathiowetz




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