Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Percent of what?

You may have come across a new poll that's doing the rounds.

According to to Yaniv Reich, reproduced at Information Clearing House ‘53% of Israelis think ethnic cleansing is the solution to the conflict’.

The actual question was ‘What's the best solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict?’, and the response options were
  • Two states for two peoples, 30.8%
  • Transfer of Palestinians to another Arab country, 53.2%
  • Maintain status quo, 1.3%
  • Give Palestinians Jordanian citizenship, 14.5%

As I’ve often pointed out before, if the response options don’t exhaust all the possibilities, if only by offering an ‘other’ option, it inevitably distorts the results. In most cases, as in this one, failure to include other possibilities, like extending Israeli citizenship to everyone in the area Israel currently controls, or federation with neighbouring countries, for example, means that the poll is actually more an exercise in propaganda than research —an attempt to form rather than to measure respondents’ views.

But in this case, that hardly matters. To his credit, Reich disclaims of Israel National News (Arutz 7) ‘its a right-wing rag’. As far as I’m aware, its principal audience is settlers, presumably, hard core English speaking olim. So the population ‘sampled’ is already heavily skewed to the extreme right.

At the same time, apparently picking up on Arutz 7’s claim of ‘more than 6,400 people surveyed’, he gives Arutz Sheva too much credit in describing the number of votes as ‘sample size “more than 6,400″’.  In reality, the poll was not a survey as usually understood, where respondents are selected at random from identified ‘strata’ of a population to ensure that the sample reflects demographic characteristics of the whole population, like sex, age, location, etc. The ‘sample’ was entirely self selecting. We have no way of knowing whether respondents corresponded in any way even with the population of Arutz Sheva readers, much less with Israeli Jews, much less with Israelis in general.

Based on this thoroughly bogus online vote, it is not possible to say, as Reich does, that ‘53.2% of surveyed Israelis say the “solution” to the conflict was the ethnic cleansing (”transfer”) of Palestinians out of occupied Palestine and into other neighboring Arab countries’. Because there was no proper sampling, we can’t calculate the ‘margin of error — for all we know, it’s 90%, or 3%.

As for the other results, Arutz Sheva is actually more honest than Reich in claiming, ‘The "two-states for two peoples" solution being pushed by the United States and the international community received 30.8 percent support’, where Reich writes, ‘only 30.8% of Israelis support the “two-states for two peoples” framework for peace’. It’s not 30.8% of Israelis — it’s just 30.8% of those who voted in the poll, since they don’t represent anyone else. Bear in mind that this was an online poll, so anyone at all can vote, Israeli or not, Jewish or not.

According to Tel Aviv University’s October War and Peace Index, however, which does purport to be based on a genuine sample of 514, with a margin of error of 4.5%,
...the distribution of views among the Jewish public is quite clear : the majority, about two-thirds (64%), favor the principle [of “two states for two peoples”] compared to a third who oppose it.

So it’s highly probable that the proportion of Israeli Jews who support ‘two states for two peoples’ is actually more than double what this poll claims.

It’s worth reiterating that for Israeli Jews, ‘two states for two peoples’ does not necessarily mean The International Consensus. As I pointed out in July, 60% of Israeli Jews say withdrawal to the Green Line is ‘unacceptable’, and 53% consider evacuation of the settlements unacceptable, while 45% insist that it’s ‘essential’ for all of Jerusalem with its expanded boundaries, to remain annexed to Israel, etc. October’s War and Peace Index found that 54% of the two state supporters ‘thinks continued construction in the settlements will not ultimately detract from the realization of the two-state solution’.

Real opinion polls, for all their legion faults, provide us with at least a gross indication of the level of unabashed and unalloyed racism among Israeli Jews, whether they support establishing a Palestinian bantustan, and what form they want it to take, among other things. And we can use that information in countering the perennial hasbara onslaught about ‘Israel’s quest for peace’, but wherever you may read about it, this Arutz Sheva poll tells us squat and it is self defeating to pretend that it does.


  1. Conducting scientifically (Mathematical Statistics) sound polls or surveys is very hard to do (but not impossible) and interpretation (Mathematical) of survey results equally hard.

    Most polls don't even come near the basic requirements (Google and other blogging software only make matters worse by now allowing blogger to organise 'mini polls' at the 'click of a button' - soon we'll be able to click ourselves out of existence at 'the click of a button') and the Arutz Sheva one is no exception.

    The other problem is of course the phrasing of questions: what does it mean to support 'two states for two peoples'? Israelis seem inclined toward that idea but only if it comes with near infinite safety of Israel and Israelis... And no, I don't have a poll to back that up either...

  2. When it comes to opinion polls, my working assumption is that the pollsters, who are typically involved in marketting research, would not long remain in business if they were selling their clients bogus data. Of course, I can't rule out the possibility that they apply less stringent standards when the client is a lobbyist rather than a business and clearly wants a particular result. Still, as the data from polls I've been analysing here often don't support the positions of those commissioning them, or even the claims they m,ake about them after the fact (e.g., I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt on that score.

    I have no particular problem with online polls, provided it's understood that they are not surveys, don't sample any particular population and so can't be weighted to reveal anything broader than the answers provided by those providing the answers. In other words that they don't reveal or explain anything.

    You are absolutely right about question wording. In opinion polls, it seldom comes without spin, but you can still extract some meaning from the answers a lot of the time.

    If you want a better idea of what Israelis mean by 'two states for two peoples', I think you will find it in my post on the OneVoice poll:

  3. Push polls are a device by which one affects public opinion by providing a seeming trend for people to follow : that's why the public is referred to as the 'sheeple' by some commentators. Media lies are so engrained that the real trick is to find information which has not been totally perverted by corporate spin.
    It's the old saw : Figures don't lie...but Liars do figure.
    Here are some of those dedicated to the proposition of accurate perception as a necessity for intelligent decisions.

  4. That's what I thought, but technically, I believe it is not strictly a push poll unless the intent is to influence the respondents themselves through innuendo (

    The links in your posts seem a trifle miscellaneous to me. I can't say I'm convinced that they are all equally 'dedicated to the proposition of accurate perception' much less to 'intelligent decisions'. Still, maybe I'll check the unfamiliar ones out some time.

    Best of luck with your training.

  5. They are miscellaneous, actually. I merely categorized surfing 'finds' as I happened upon them : rather than Search and collate the results.Since I know results of Search are biased towards commercial funders of services, I wanted to find more impartial results less influenced by payment systems : having been totally disgusted by Microsoft/MSN when I started surfing online. To that end I started an index, hoping for a sort of 'critical mass' effect that would take me to more and better options.
    So I set up at htt:// which has become too cumbersome to use as anything except a file for where I have stashed' searchable public tagfiles ( ) provide an alternative - and community files can be searched as well.
    Most lists are now Collections Forwarded to Blogger - while StumbleUpon, Care 2 and Twitter provide more condensed lists yet.
    And perhaps the Perceptions Alteration list is a quicker way to examples of what you are discussing.
    Last Left Turn B4 Hooterville's Alicia Morgan has written a book The Price of Right in which she discusses framing : but I haven't read it, having been busy enough collecting Orwellian data rather than the same parameters relating specifically to Moving the Overton Window ( shifting the goalposts ) .

  6. BTW I think you are the first person to openly comment on the implications of my whimsical choice of moniker.

  7. Huh?

    An understanding of framing can form a useful part of propaganda analysis, but on its own, I don't think it gets you very far. In Lakoff's case, it hasn't got him anywhere at all. See and

    For Lakoff's latest scabby antics in the context of the Wheeler Hall occupation:

    From the look of your photo, now that I've seen it full size, I gather you're well on your way;~}

  8. Apropos to the Arutz Sheva poll, I have now confirmed that it did not appear on the French or Spanish sites, nor thanks to Sol Salbe, on the Hebrew site. Faust confirmed in a comment on lenin's tomb that it did appear on the Russian site, although I still don't know whether the Russian results were included in the 6400 responses, or totaled separately, if it matters.

  9. Re: alias :Just that I could stay 'in training' and claim that arrival was indefinitely postponed: which didn't stop me from claiming that when my son appropriated 'old man' for himself as parent...I allowed he could think of calling me Ancient One. And those who think man didn't roam the Earth with the dinosaurs...welll. :)
    As far as propaganda analysis itself, I suspect such study is most useful for those who wish to emulate established techniques.
    Searching for truth in such makes me think muddied waters are better used for washing the stables.
    Your own comment on Lakeoff's progress would tend to that conclusion.

  10. Well, congratulations. My kids have thus far spared me the indignity of grandparenthood.

    Of course you're right that studying propaganda techniques is of great utility to its practitioners, and I reckon that's what Lakoff is all about.

    But whatever use it might be more appropriately applied to, muddy water unfortunately is the environment we live in. They call it 'common sense' and until vast numbers of people find a way to see through the mud, I'm not optimistic about the prospects of a change for the better. On the bright side, what is going to clarify the water is not occasional blog posts that a dozen people read, but everybody's lived experience. The contradictions and the bullshit are there staring us all in the face all the time, so sooner or later, people will have enough and say 'I'm not going to take it anymore'.

    I entertained hopes that the inevitable sellouts by President Hope and Change might do the trick. Or last year's financial meltdown and the cynical trillion dollar bailout of the banksters. Or even Michael Moore's film. As I always say, you never know what the last straw is going to be, and obviously none of those was it. But I'm no doubt that there will be one.

    As for opinion polls - the ones that do sample a defined population - in my view it is often possible to discern some 'truth' in them, even if that truth is just that common sense continues to prevail and that a lot of people are prepared to accommodate contradictory views, which I think is worth knowing. The main reason I analyse them is that they provide a hook from which I can suspend a deconstruction of the assumptions they rely on.

  11. Homo sapiens is understandable as either Wise Man or Foolish Man depending on whose scholarly effort you prefer : recapping the difference between Rational Man and Rationalizing Man.
    Some of the notes I have tend to lead one to the various ideas about Illuminati, Elites, New World Order...and much worse. Nor is the line between credible and incredible fixed in stone.
    You may recall the Noise Machine started up about violent American rebellion as soon as the Obaminator was confirmed. That sounds an awful lot like End Game and 'Emergency'.

  12. Yeah, well, I don't go in much for conspiracy theories. There are doubtless organisations that operate in secrecy, but I regard them as a symptom rather than a cause and the explanations for the phenomena that concern me are all in plain sight.

    I wouldn't expect to come to much of an understanding of my species if I assumed that we were all wise, or all foolish, or some wise and some foolish. Elements of wisdom and foolishness, among other things, combine in each of us to make us what we are.

  13. So do elements of credulity and willingness to accept explanations for dysfunctions that don't make sense.To accept that though, you'd have to start down the pathway of things happening that look fit to doom the species.
    If you haven't done so, I suggest you have a look at the YouTube issue - it's actually hosted at several places - of 'Home - by the Home Project'. You can't understand the nature of humanity's problems unless you realize water and food security are not merely compromised : they are assaulted by ever-worsening challenges.

  14. We're well along that trajectory. It's no secret that capitalism is devoted to maximising profit in the short term, regardless of cost, particularly such 'externalities' as the future of the planet. The question is what we're going to do about it. Despair is an option, but won't avert a catastrophe, or accomplish anything at all.

    'Home' looks very slick, but a bit repetitive, even in the first few minutes I watched. I may watch the rest, if only for the photography. But am I going to learn anything new?