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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Clarifies Focus Group Criticism

October 20, 2000

AAPOR Did Not Intend to Criticize NBC and MSNBC for  Their Overall Use of a Group of Undecided Voters

The AAPOR press release that was distributed on October 16th contained a reference to a comment made on the post-debate broadcast that appeared on MSNBC. AAPOR did not intend to criticize NBC and MSNBC for their overall use of a group of undecided voters in their coverage. The group in Tampa, Florida that was interviewed on NBC and MSNBC was never described on air as a focus group. And the people in it were originally part of a random sample.

Our criticism was focused on the use of the word "cross-section" in the on-the-air comment that in this context appeared to us to imply representativeness. However, the term cross-section has other meanings, and we now understand that the networks did not intend to use the term to imply representativeness. 

We did not intend to criticize the method used to assemble the group nor the networks' use of the group on the air. In fact, their reporting of the group showed appropriate restraint in avoiding the use of tallies and percentages.

We regret any confusion this may have caused.