October 23, 2005

Secret Polling Man

Hatched by Dafydd

Yes, Virginia, there should be a Sanity Clause.

The headline nearly bellows its bias: Secret [Ministry of Defence] poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops. It's enough to make you leap up off your chair, full five feet up and higher.

But the harder we look, the more elusive the actual data... providing a salutory lesson why we demand a great deal of disclosure before taking any poll seriously. This "survey" is less about finding the truth than it is about creating a truth more palatable to the Telegraph than the actual facts on the ground in Iraq: military cooperation -- a rush of new intelligence tips to American troops -- and that minor election a week ago.

In today's Telegraph, this article alleges that a "secret military poll" conducted by "an Iraqi university research team" (otherwise unnamed for "security reasons") on behalf of Great Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows a catastrophic collapse in support for Coalition forces, a huge rise in the number of radicalized Iraqis -- a country on the verge of an explosion of violent attacks on British and American forces by ordinary civilians, who now hate our guts:

Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.

The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.

You know your poll is in trouble when the results fly in the face not merely of previous polling but of the very actions taken by the people you are attempting to model. In this case, we are asked to believe that "fewer than one per cent" think that Coalition presence helps improve security.

Yet it's pretty clear that the Iraqi Army and police likely think that being trained up to superior fighting units helps security... and if you add up the number of Iraqi military and police who are trained, equipped, and deployed throughout Iraq, you have nearly 200,000, according to MG Rick Lynch, the spokesman for Multi-National Force Iraq:

Between the Iraqi police force and the Iraqi Army for the January elections, there were about 138,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force. Now the Iraqi police service and the Iraqi Army is over 195,000 trained and equipped and deployed across Iraq.

Add in those who are still being trained and equipped but who are very enthusiastic about their mission and the American trainers, such as the Iraqi mechanized-infantry division that MG Bob Scales (ret) discussed on Brit Hume, which we blogged about here, and you already have over one percent of the Iraqi population without even considering civilians, surely some of whom must support the Coalition. Already, the main claim is dubious -- not a good sign for a survey that somebody -- we're never told who -- demands remain "secret."

Read the Telegraph article and note what they do not tell us: who conducted the survey? Who was surveyed? How many, and how many from each province? What was the margin of error? What were the exact questions? Where did the respondents live? How did the pollster assure a representative sample of Iraqi citizens?

Did they ask about "suicide attacks," or simply "attacks?" The Telegraph article uses both terms almost indistinguishably. What were the conditions of the question about attacks on Coalition forces... was this question in the form "if Coalition forces were to do X, would you then support attacking them?" And if so many Iraqis hate us -- then why do they cooperate so enthusiastically with the security training, intelligence tipping, and constitutional voting that we helped them set up?

Can't the Telegraph give us something? Anything?

Contrast the deafening silence on the entire methodology of this alleged "secret military poll" with the transparency of this poll, conducted by SurveyUSA anent the upcoming special election in California. We blogged it here, because we can be confident of the findings -- since SurveyUSA told us nearly everything we need to know to evaluate or "qualify" the poll itself, as an attorney might say about a witness. And a poll is a sort of witness, as it purports to tell you what people would say if you got them in a room and pumped them full of truth serum.

And what the heck does the Telegraph mean by saying the results were "seen by" the Sunday Telegraph? Did the Ministry of Defence hold up the results and let the reporter, Sean Rayment, glance through the survey? Did he see results, or just a summary? How long was he allowed to look? Did they let him take home a copy? As exactly none of these vital questions were answered, I suspect we can guess what the answers would have been.

A dubious claim does not suddenly become plausible when tarted up by an equally dubious "survey"... especially when we're told nothing about the methodology, when the results fly in the fact of not only previous polling but also the attitudes implied by the increasing level of cooperation we're getting from Iraqi military and civilians (see the previous post, US kills 20 Terrorists in Western Iraq), and the poll itself is allegedly a state secret.

There is a lot less here than meets the eye. Just as a good DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, a clever pollster can produce a poll showing anything he wants.

Without a track record for the pollster and full access not only to the survey methods but also a complete list of the questions (in order asked) and raw responses, the "results" reported by the Telegraph are utterly meaningless.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 23, 2005, at the time of 2:57 AM

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» While You Were Goofing Off... from Big Lizards
I see that Patterico has reinvigorated his own recap of the weekend's posts, This Weekend On Patterico.... doubtless because he was inspired by me. Few people know this, but I was the one who suggested the idea to him in... [Read More]

Tracked on October 24, 2005 2:40 PM

» Son of Secret Polling Man from Big Lizards
Omar at Iraq the Model has also blogged about that "secret military poll" reported in the Telegraph. He comes to pretty much the same conclusions as we while adding a caveat that only a local would know... And by the... [Read More]

Tracked on October 25, 2005 3:48 AM


The following hissed in response by: RBMN

If nothing else works, they can chain the results to "prove" almost anything.

Do you want to see British troops leave Iraq sooner rather than later? 80% yes

Do the terrorist attacks on British troops increase the likelihood that British troops will leave sooner? 83% yes.

Well, there's your answer....

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 23, 2005 7:02 AM

The following hissed in response by: John Jorsett

[a catastrophic collapse in support for Coalition forces, a huge rise in the number of radicalized Iraqis -- a country on the verge of an explosion of violent attacks on British and American forces by ordinary civilians, who now hate our guts]

Michael Yon's new piece (it's in the Weekly Standard today and should be on his website Monday) puts the lie to this. He reports being treated like royalty and repeated thanked as a representative of America by Iraqi voters at a polling station.

The above hissed in response by: John Jorsett [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 23, 2005 1:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: Uncle Bill

The central problem here appears to be a guy by the name of Muqtada al-Sadr.

He caused a lot of grief a while ago up north mainly in Sadr City, so called.

This clown needs to be terminated.

Unfortunately the Brits have until recently been of the opinion that al-Sadr and his thugs were harmless. As it turns out, not so.

Steve Vincent tried to expose the crap that was and is going on in Basra. al-Sadr's thugs took care of him - who is going to take out al-Sadr?

The above hissed in response by: Uncle Bill [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 23, 2005 2:11 PM

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