Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hawaii Reporter Rail ‘Poll’ Among 2011 Lowlights

Under the headline Public Not Supportive of Honolulu Rail Project, Poll Shows, the Hawaii Reporter website has published the results of its latest failed attempt at legitimate journalism.

There are polls that mean something – they’re usually called “scientific” public opinion surveys – and then there’s Hawaii Reporter’s latest solicitation of views on Honolulu rail.

HR’s poll ranks right down there with the infamous 1936 presidential election survey conducted by The Literary Digest. Says Wikipedia: “The Literary Digest is almost certainly best-remembered today for the circumstances surrounding its demise…. In retrospect, the polling techniques employed by the magazine were to blame. Although it had polled 10 million individuals…, it had surveyed firstly its own readers….”

Wikipedia goes on to note that the Digest’s readers weren’t representative of the voting public. The magazine’s prediction of an Alf Landon victory (FDR won 46 of 48 states) is remembered as a “Titanic” event; it sank the Digest.

Hawaii Reporter’s poll is guilty of the same grievous error. Judging from HR’s anti-rail editorial position that was even evident in the poll's questions, it’s safe to conclude its readers are equally opposed to rail. The website’s readership in no way represents the cross-section of Oahu citizens, so this survey – which shows overwhelming opposition to the rail project – isn't worth the bytes that make up the post.

For scientific results on what the public has said about rail, see the Public Opinion section of our “aggregation site.”

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