Archive for April, 2012

Let’s perpetrate peace

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Today I read that “Hector has leveraged his academic expertise to foment democracy and justice in Latin America”.

This could be a model of resistance to subliminal verbing. If you want our shared stock of verbs to be freely available for use in expressing their cognitive meanings without the associated normative connotative baggage, perhaps one way to contribute to that goal is resistive verbing, making efforts to spice your writing with phrases such as:

  • foment democracy
  • perpetrate peace
  • aggravate justice
  • mitigate benefit
  • relieve pleasure
  • wreak efficiency
  • improve homicide
  • bestow poverty

Republican survey research methodology

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Some marketing takes the form of an opinion survey. Reasonable that those who sell should want to know something about the opinions of prospective customers, so why not?

But here’s a problem. Organization X wants to persuade people to buy its product, and it decides to use a survey in that effort. Should it solicit opinions objectively so as to learn what prospects’ “true” opinions are? Or should it use leading questions so as to steer prospects toward liking and wanting X’s product? The latter choice is tricky, because it may be detected, in which case a prospect may conclude that X is being deceptive, something that may persuade the prospect to avoid X’s product even if it had been under consideration before. Even if it isn’t detected, it doesn’t provide good data, unless it’s part of an experiment in which questions with different degrees and directions of bias are randomly given to different respondents.

Case in point: a survey that I received from the Republican National Committee a few days ago. Here’s one of the questions:

Should federal funds be provided to non-profit organizations whose primary function is conducting abortions?

I’m no opinion-measurement expert, but my lay opinion of this question is that it plainly asks for an opinion without indicating which opinion is preferred by the asker. It looks like a genuine poll question.

Here’s another:

Are you committed to helping ensure that in 2012, the Obama-era of radical liberalism, reckless spending and embarrassing foreign policy comes to an end?

So, what is the RNC trying to do with this survey? Get opinion data, mold opinion, find out who is on its side, test the effects of different question extremities on donation rates? I don’t know. To me, it doesn’t seem calculated to achieve any goal well. Perhaps this survey is too clever for me.

If you’d like to see the other questions, other bloggers have commented on them one by one:

The Dave Factor

The Gaming Atheist


Ron Paul Forums