By Finn Raben
Over the weekend the New York Times and Observer newspapers reported that data mining and analysis company Cambridge Analytica, a company that had been employed with considerable success by Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential campaign, had illegally harvested 50 million Facebook profiles in order to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. The Observer reports that data was collected via a digital app on the Facebook platform where hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use. However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends.
by Kathy Frankovic, former director of surveys at CBS News and a member of ESOMAR’s Professional Standards Committee
Election polling is the most visible part of market, opinion and social research. It carries the heavy burden for getting things right, but its previous successes have also brought high and perhaps unearned expectations for its accuracy. This year, and the U.S. presidential election in particular, provides a good example of what happens when people forget the limitations of polls, that sampling and non-response may matter, and that ascribing too much precision to polling estimates in times of change can make pundits and journalists look as silly as the pollsters they berate.
Fleeing wars, famine or simply looking for a better life, the misplaced masses of the world have dominated headlines this year. The dramatic exodus causes tensions, dominates debates and can even influences elections. What do opinion polls and social research say about this global problem?
From the coasts of the Mediterranean to the townships of South Africa, from the Channel Tunnel to the US-Mexican border; immigrants and refugees are a growing and seemingly unstoppable concern. We investigated the various regions where border tensions are dividing popular opinion, and asked if this leads to increased social and opinion research, and if so, how it informs the difficult discussion on this topic.
US-Mexican border security has been a hot topic for some time now, but in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign there is increased attention for the issue. This summer, Republican contender Donald Trump’s critical comments on immigrants, infuriated millions of Mexicans. Brian Paler, is a senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, where he provides strategic advice to international campaigns, corporations and organisations: “Whether or not Mr. Trump continues to dominate press coverage, we anticipate immigration playing a major role leading up to the general election. Within the polling about US immigration, three key findings stand out:
- Although pluralities in the US feel negative toward immigration, views toward immigration have held relatively stable over the past decade, despite varying levels of press coverage.
- Although immigration may be a source of concern for voters, other issues may drive voting decisions even more. Before the last midterm elections, one of our surveys showed that a candidate’s position on immigration was the 7th most important reason for voting for him/her.
- Negative opinion toward migration is more intense than positive opinion. Gallup’s data from the last fifteen years shows that among those who feel satisfied about the level of immigration in the US, less than 20 per cent feel very satisfied. Among those who are dissatisfied, about 60 per cent feel very dissatisfied. This finding in particular helps explain why anti-immigrant political positions may emerge and resonate to a degree that seems out of line with the total level of opposition and concern on the issue.
There is some evidence that providing people with more factual knowledge about migration can soften concerns about the issue. A 2014 Transatlantic Trends survey shows that US survey respondents are 17 percent less likely to believe there are too many immigrants in the country after being given the actual percentage of immigrants currently in the country.”
Jackie Lorch, vp global knowledge management at Survey Sampling International and ESOMAR representative: “Polls have tended to focus on illegal immigration. This topic has been prominent in the Republican presidential campaign to date with Donald Trump, leading in the polls, calling for deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants and building a wall along the border with Mexico. Much loud social media and traditional media debate followed, and polls have helped provide some perspective. For example in a January 2015 Pew Research Center survey Americans ranked immigration 12th among a list of issues that should be top priority for Obama and Congress. Terrorism, the economy, jobs, healthcare and education were among the higher priorities.”
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