15

Examples:

These questions all follow a certain schema: They pick a certain datapoint from a Pew Research survey and then ask the community for reasons why many people from country A hold a positive or negative opinion of country B.

These questions were partially negatively received by the community. They received some close-votes, downvotes (but upvotes as well) and a couple flags. For example:

This question represents a violation of Stack Exchanges Code of Conduct. See "Misleading information" section, specifically.

Why do they continue to post questions with such obvious misrepresentations of the data? 48% is not the majority, and never has been. This seems like more clickbait from the same user with a title obviously misrepresenting the actual data. This appears to be yet another violation of the "misleading information" section of Stack Exchange's Code of Conduct.

How should we as a community deal with questions like this?

14
  • Can whoever raised those flags explain why the questions are misleading information? One of the flags argues that 48% is not the majority, but that's not convincing, since as far as I can tell it's 46% vs. 48%, which is arguably a majority; besides, one can always edit majority into plurality as a mod has already done, and I don't see what else is misleading about the question.
    – Allure
    Mar 20 at 14:36
  • @Allure I think the main issue people saw in that question was that 48%-46% is so close it’s practically irrelevant Mar 20 at 14:56
  • 2
    @EkadhSingh-ReinstateMonica that's fair, but then you could simply rewrite the question to "why do so many Israelis have a favorable view of China?".
    – Allure
    Mar 20 at 15:00
  • @Allure that’s a really good point, I honestly didn’t think of that. nvm then Mar 20 at 15:01
  • @Allure Isn't 48% versus 46% or a 2% difference within the margin of error of most polls? Meaning that after correcting for the error the results could be different?
    – Joe W
    Mar 21 at 13:26
  • @JoeW see my comment two posts above.
    – Allure
    Mar 21 at 13:53
  • @Allure That is a different question, trying to say the majority of a group versus a large number of that group gives a different understanding to the readers of the statement.
    – Joe W
    Mar 21 at 14:27
  • @JoeW how is it a different question? The same answer would answer both. Can you conceive of an answer that answers one, but not the other?
    – Allure
    Mar 21 at 14:46
  • 2
    @Allure Because a large number of people could be a value that is clearly not a majority. Some could argue that 35% of a population is a large number which is clearly not a majority. Say for example the poll was asking if you agree, disagree, or have no opinion on it it could be stated that a large number are in each category but no majority is reached.
    – Joe W
    Mar 21 at 17:32
  • @JoeW I don't see how that matters. Again, can you conceive of an answer that answers one phrasing of the question, but not the other?
    – Allure
    Mar 22 at 2:44
  • 1
    I don't know what you are arguing about. In the US parlance, 48% is "plurality" if all the other percentages are smaller. That's just what the word means. And its use is accurate. Plurality literally means highest of all other percentages, but less than 50%. Mar 22 at 6:34
  • @RadicallyReasonable Because there is a difference between a large number of people and a majority of the country. When people hear the majority of a country feels someway about something it tends to be taken as how the country itself feels that way when that isn't the case for a large number of people feeling that.
    – Joe W
    Mar 22 at 12:05
  • @joew aha.. right. And what does that have to do with "plurality"? As in "a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast"? Mar 22 at 15:02
  • @RadicallyReasonable The comment I responded to was about a 46% versus 48% difference with is within the margin of error for most polls. Meaning that it is very possible that after taking the error into account the view isn't actually in the "Plurality" and the other view is.
    – Joe W
    Mar 22 at 15:55

4 Answers 4

8

I think we should not allow questions in this question format.

Why certain people responded to surveys in a specific way is usually pure speculation. These questions tend to invite answers that dig out one-sided information about a certain countries foreign policy and attribute the dislike of the people to this point. Looking at the answers of these questions, we see a lot of this. Lots of finger-pointing and mud-slinging, but no proof that whatever misdeed the answer points out is actually relevant for the people surveyed. And even worse, we sometimes get answers like this which try to turn it around and accuse the surveyed people of malicious intentions.

Therefore, I think that questions like this should be closed using the "speculative" close-reason:

Questions asking for the internal motivations of people, how specific individuals would behave in hypothetical situations or predictions for future events are off-topic, because answers would be based on speculation and their correctness could not be verified with sources available to the public.

3
  • 1
    Disagree - if you don't cite such polls to back up sentences like "most Polish people view Russia unfavorably", what do you cite? Or do you simply not believe that most Polish people view Russia unfavorably?
    – Allure
    Mar 20 at 14:33
  • 2
    I would rather prefer strict moderation on the answers (maybe require they have data to back them up or something?) than shutting down the questions entirely. Also, I feel like that close reason doesn’t exactly apply because while the motivations of one person or a small group of people is had to find, the motivations of an entire country can be found. Mar 20 at 14:59
  • 5
    Disagree. This was a damp squib of a question - anyone remotely interested would find the answer in 15 seconds. And, yes, polls can easily be gamed for endless lets-ask-a-question. And, yes, they are inherently problematic to deal with, both in the sense you raise and with unseen priming and framing issues. But dismissing poll-driven questions out of hand also does them a great disservice: polls are a unique window into political psyches and can be the basis for a great many deeper "why is X happening?" questions. Mar 20 at 15:57
8

It's quite possible that detailed surveys exist that explain/ask what people in country X like and don't like about country Y.

Just because (some) people write bad answers, chock-full of propaganda and their personal opinions is not the fault of the questioners or questions. The fault lies with users here who upvote such answers.

As a suggestion, to discourage such answers, mods could add some banner to these types of questions to (further) discourage pure guesswork answers. I'm gonna say that all 'why' questions--regardless of topic-- are somewhat vulnerable to this.

A somewhat more intrusive/activist version of this for mods to delete answers to such Qs that (answers themselves) aren't based on polls. This policy is used on Skeptics.SX far more often, albeit even there not 100% consistently. Arguably, that would prevent any arguments-from-history [the most upvoted answer to the Poland Q is just that], so it might be too restrictive of a policy. (And despite its obviousness to some, the Poland Q has made HNQ.)

TBH, I don't see how these questions are any different than asking 'why' about the inclinations of any group [short of a gov't] on anything. E.g., Qs just from the same user:


And yeah, I've complained before to the OP (of these questions) that they describe a plurality by 'most'. I think my comments to that effect were later deleted by a mod, since I can't find them now. (Checking out this ELU question though, I might have been too pedantic, but it looks like most people use 'most' to mean a majority.) But that's somewhat unrelated to the main issue at hand here. Anyhow, if editing this user's questions in that respect is too much work, ban the user, not the questions. Others can surely ask such questions without misrepresenting the poll[s].

TBH, the issue of that user overselling something they read came in other Qs of theirs. E.g. Why do Russians vote when the elections are rigged?

Top comment (14 votes):

Perhaps it would be better to refer to it as a sham election, as the European Council on Foreign Relations did. "Rigged" implies election-day shenanigans, and I see multiple answers are using that technicality to talk as if they were perfectly up-front Democratic elections.

I also recall complaining about them overselling the notion of "conflict of interest" on another recent Q, that I think they deleted in the meantime. TLDR on this: it's about par for the quality of Qs from this user, in general. It's not an issue specific to these poll questions.

0
3

TLDR: I think ok to handle on case-by-case basis

Questions of this type are ambiguous and hard to answer, but that can be said about both the best and worst questions.

They're also potentially "push" questions, but to be frank, a huge portion of the content on this stack is. I doubt most of us are coming here to learn a technical detail in how to be a congressional staffer, or anything like that. Seems to me the questions which attract interest are ones where people have a passion.

The real issues seem to me

  1. These Q's were overproduced
  2. The framing in some of them - including by selection of the cited poll - has the questioner apparently inviting justification for national animosity. So it's bound to be touchy

(1) IMO is a minor nuisance (2) IMO depends on the details. This could be a more valid reason to close them, than the question being hard to answer without speculating too much.

IMO any analysis of public opinion deals with causation, and analysis of causation involves examination of counterfactual and/or hypothetical causal chains as a key tool*, in which there is a narrow line between doing just that (perhaps in an informal and qualitative way), vs just speculating [*ref: Judea Pearl on Causation - one of his main points being, that analysis of causation is definitively not a waste of time as sometimes claimed by early 20th century statisticians and still widely repeated]. And likewise judgments about polling to be made with incomplete information. It's the nature of the subject matter.

Both cases can I think be handled as is with constructive comment/CV/DV, unless the mods find these especially draining (I'm sure it's been loads of fun the last few years)

0

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the first question, but it lacks effort

The question itself is not problematic. It's a reasonable one to ask. It doesn't misrepresent data (or at most any misrepresentation can be trivially edited out).

However, it lacks basic research. As Italian Philosophers 4 Monica pointed out in a highly-upvoted comment, the answer to "Why do Polish people view Russia unfavorably?" is fairly easily searched for. I landed on this result by spending less than 2 minutes Googling for that title. If the question-asker did do the research, their question gives no indication of it.

Perhaps it would be reasonable to add the "Too basic" close reason (already used by History.SE) and/or ask question-askers to document prior research.

7
  • Other research would involve actually reading the survey, looking for relevant follow-up questions, and identifying its methodology and the questions asked. This can often be found, but in some cases details are not made public, and in such cases it's unlikely a useful answer will exist.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 21 at 9:52
  • "this question". The meta-Q links to 3 diff ones. The other two are less obvious. One has zero answers thus far. Mar 21 at 13:02
  • @Dolphin613Motorboat hence no problem with the other two.
    – Allure
    Mar 21 at 13:53
  • 1
    Ironically the low-effort one hit HNQ. Mar 21 at 13:54
  • The same reasoning could be used for not having a Wikipedia page for an "obvious" subject. 1. Not everybody in the world or in every field has (or should be expected to have) the level of knowledge of "obvious" European history that many westerners who participate in Politics.SE have, any more that we should expect you to have the basic knowledge of, say, South East Asian history that is common among educated Indonesians.
    – cjs
    Mar 28 at 3:04
  • 2. Even for those with that knowledge, having a well-written reference that gives the "obvious" answer to a question is very handy when talking to others. In particular, it helps avoid wasting time reworking and retyping answers when discussing particular topics even with those you suspect may not be "seriously interested in getting an answer," or where the answer is tangential to the argument.
    – cjs
    Mar 28 at 3:04
  • 3. The point of SE is to serve as a good reference for the Internet on the SE's topics. Saying, essentially, "too obvious for this SE" is saying, "this answer should be elsewhere," and undermining the whole point of SE. 4. This particular question is fine for "basic research" supporting the question itself. Complaining that a question doesn't include the answer is nonsensical; we have answers for the answers and their supporting research.
    – cjs
    Mar 28 at 3:04

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