Thursday, June 23, 2011

You Must Read This 9/11 Poll

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth released a poll claiming "48% of New Yorkers Support Building 7 Investigation." You can smell the desperation in their press release.

Following the launch of the TV ad campaign on Monday June 6, Remember Building 7 released the results from a new poll we commissioned, conducted by the Siena Research Institute, on what New Yorkers believe about 9/11.

The poll produced several findings that will be very useful as we continue to raise awareness about Building 7 and build public support for a new investigation. Among them:

• 1 in 3 New Yorkers were unaware of Building 7’s collapse, only 25 percent have ever seen video footage of the collapse, and 86 percent were unable to name the building;

• Of those aware of Building 7’s collapse, 24 percent believe it was a controlled demolition, 23 percent are unsure, and 49 percent believe it was caused by fires.

• Summarizing what New Yorkers know and believe about Building 7, roughly 1 in 6 are aware of Building 7 and believe it was brought down by controlled demolition, roughly 1 in 6 know about it and are unsure, roughly 1 in 3 know about it and believe the collapse was caused by fires, and 1 in 3 don’t know a third building collapsed;

• 28 percent – more than 1 in 4 – believe the Twin Towers were brought down with explosives or some other demolition devices in addition to being hit by airplanes.

Here's why even those pathetic numbers don't add up.

• Question 3 of their poll asks, "How satisfied are you that the government of the United States has provided a full and honest account of what happened that day? Do you think the government has told the whole story, most of the story, only some of the story or that in reality the government has tried to hide the truth about what happened
that day?" The responses: Whole story (18%), most of the story (35%), only some (25%), "has tried to hide the truth" (15%), and the DK/Ref (8%). One, it should be obvious that "all the facts" are not out there, so the "true," non-"alternative theory" answer is somewhere between "most" and "some" of the story. Far more people believe they have a reasonable idea of what happened than those who think there's a cover-up.

• This response biases the final point 9/11 deniers were going for; that is, the final question designed to tease out the key claim that "48% of New Yorkers support a new investigation." The final question asks,

Many have signed a petition calling for a NEW investigation into Building 7's collapse. Others consider the case closed and do not think a new investigation is warranted. Would you be in favor of or opposed to a local government agency like the New York City Council or Manhattan District Attorney opening a
new investigation into the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7?

This presents the false dichotomy of "case closed" or "new investigation" - as it is obvious that "the whole story" is not yet a matter of public record, and that the only options are either "stop talking about it" or "support a new investigation." Indeed, the fact that only 1/6 of respondents actually said "case closed" in Question 3 yet 44% said "case closed" in this penultimate demonstrates that even with dishonest framing, 9/11 deniers can not drum up support for their position.

The question about WTC7's collapse does not allow participants to provide the right answer. It asks what they thought the most likely cause was, and the first response (the evidence-based or "official story" response) is "Fires, that were a result of the impact of debris from the Twin towers, that burned throughout the day, leading to the failure of the building's steel frame." This is not what happened to WTC 7.

• A minor phraseology point, from my survey methodology days (disclaimer: author previously worked at a political polling firm): Why is the "official story" response phrased in a meandering, "laundry list" style while the conspiracy theory response is a simple, direct statement? So there's this thing in question phraseology called "framing"...

The question about the Twin Towers' collapse does not allow participants to provide the right answer, either. Its response options forced participants to choose between "Two planes only," "two planes and explosives," or "don't know." "Two planes only" is a wildly inaccurate response that essentially forces participants to lie in saying that structural effects played no role.

So even when they try to lie, 9/11 deniers get some pretty pathetic results. But to me, the worst part is that this poll seems to have deliberately targeted an unrepresentative sample of New York...

This survey managed to find almost twice as many college grads, five times as many unemployed people and ten times as many independents as New York City actually has to offer (For New York: Source, Source, Source) - who were able to answer a home telephone landline during the day (oddly, this survey didn't have the problem of upward age skew that most surveys have...). 40% of survey-takers were college grads compared to 27% of New Yorkers; 40% were unemployed vs. 8.6% of New Yorkers, and 23% vs. 2.3% were "registered independent/other."

Though almost certainly just an accident of lazy sampling, this survey looks an awful lot like it did something specifically to target unemployed grads with alternative political views. The prototypical 9/11 denier, anyone?

This survey produced unflattering results when the most dishonest measures were taken to make them flattering. Their third-rate pollster drummed up the biggest joke of a sample and could barely return pathetic support for 9/11 denial. They'll find a way to trump up what paltry results they can scrape out of their crosstabs: send 'em here to remind them what the numbers really say.


Triterope said...

Good analysis. I must quibble on one point:

So this survey did something specifically to target unemployed grads with alternative political views.

Most likely it was just conducted during the day, when most people with jobs aren't at home. A lot of polls like this show demographic skews for mundane reasons.

Neighborhood Rationalist said...

Very true. I had that part rephrased in the final draft that apparently I didn't use, along with a couple other minor touch-ups.