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The main ways of manipulating the political ratings

28-11-2018

«In civilized societies, sociological information is an essential component of social planning,

forecasting and management. Our interest in it has a «seasonal» nature»

(Vil Bakirov)

In the Ukrainians public mind, sociology is the rating compilation of the popularity of certain politicians and political forces. Therefore, judgments about sociology can be summarized by saying how accurate and objective such ratings are, and how honest sociologists are.

At the fervor of the election campaign the team of the MLS group decided to demonstrate manipulative technologies that can be used by interested people (journalists, politicians, pseudo-sociologists) for society disinformation. There are many variants for manipulation (from the stage of formation the research sample to the stage of presentation of the data), but we will focus on the numbers and how they are presented to the public.

There are various approaches to the calculation of ratings in sociology: to all people who have taken part in the poll, to those who will go to the election, to those who have decided for whom to vote. The ratings of political forces / candidates will vary considerably depending on which value is taken as a basis. What do political ratings actually mean?

For illustration purposes, we review the results of the study «Socio-political monitoring of Zaporizhzhia city: current problems and the direction of changes», which was conducted by the MLS group from 5th to 16th March, 2018. Over 800 Zaporizhzhia citizens who are over 18 years old have taken part in an interview. The sample population represents the whole Zaporizhzhia city. We consider the rating of TOP-5 political parties.

Political forces Among all, % Among those who will go to the election, % Among those who have decided for whom to vote,  %
Opozytsiynyy blok 12,0 13,6 21,5
Batkivshchyna 10,6 12,0 19,0
Za zhyttya 7,0 7,9 12,5
Radykalna partiya 6,4 7,2 11,4
Nash kray 2,8 3,1 4,9
It is hard to say 32,9 36,7  
I would not go to elections 11,8    

 

The rating «among all» demonstrates results for all people who took part in the survey. The data represents the real support of a particular party among the entire electorate of the city at the time of the survey. According to the survey, almost 12% of the population for some reason refuses to vote. Another third of citizens have not made up minds about political forces, they don't know who they will vote for, but they plan to go to the elections. Consequently, 45% of citizens of Zaporizhzhia have known for whom they will vote at the time of the survey.

The ratings calculated for those who will go to the vote are large, because we do not account people who are going to refuse to vote. Therefore, the proportion of each response becomes more important. At the same time, according to the survey, almost 37% of the electorate of Zaporizhzhia city has not decided yet on their political sympathy at the time of the survey, but during the elections they will vote for one or other political forces, that can significantly affect the ranking position. The greater the percentage of ambivalent voters, the lower the possibility to predict the election results.

The rating «among those who have decided for whom to vote» demonstrates the level of support of political forces among the population, which has made up mind about political preferences and who will go to the election. This rating reflects the “core” of support for a political force or candidate at the time of the survey. It shows the part of the electorate, which has already formed certain sympathies.

More often, the manipulation of the public opinion occurs on the difference in values of these ratings. Some journalists, pseudo-sociologists or other interested subjects may give the results of various sociological studies, without specifying the basis of calculations (among all, or among those who will go to the election).

So then, as the election date approaches, not only the number of promises of candidates, the volume of political advertising is growing, but the number of manipulations of the public opinion is growing too. In order not to lead yourself up the path, remember the following rules:

1. The reliable sociological data always contains a description of the study:

  • the name of the company that conducted the data;
  • venue of the survey (national survey, local, etc.)
  • survey method and period of survey;
  • number of respondents (sample);
  • prediction band and confidence figure.

2. Political ratings are based on the same methodology, therefore, the data collected by different companies at the same time cannot contradict each other. For example, if candidate “X” leads in all ratings, and “Y” leads in one rating, it is a reason test if the presented information is reliable.

3. When you look at the percentage of support of a candidate, you should pay attention to the basis of calculations. In fact, the most common manipulation is associated with the comparison of various ratings of support of the political forces. For example, according to the results of the research the candidate «X» has been supported in 25% among those who have decided for whom to vote, and candidate «Y» has been supported in 16% among all respondents. But data are given without indicating the category of respondents against which the percentage was calculated. Thus, it may seem that the rate gap between the candidates is 9%.This can be used by interested people, because during elections people «join the majority opinion». It means, that a person who has not decided for whom to vote is more likely to join the candidate / party with a high rating than the one which has lower rating.

Let’s form a culture of using public data together!

We are open to ideas and partnerships! If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact us by phone +380 97 7213496 or write to research@mlsgroup.com.ua.

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