Friday, September 30, 2011

PR Folks and Coffee

According to this report, PR/marketing folks are the second most caffeinated profession.

Here's the full list:

1. Scientist/Lab Technician
2. Marketing/Public Relations Professional
3. Education Administrator
4. Editor/Writer
5. Healthcare Administrator
6. Physician
7. Food Preparer
8. Professor
9. Social Worker
10. Financial Professional
11. Personal Caretaker
12. Human Resources Benefits Coordinator
13. Nurse
14. Government Professional
15. Skilled Tradesperson (plumber, carpenter, etc)

I have my doubts.

First off, there's no real methodology reported except that it was based on a survey produced by Dunkin' Donuts and something called Careerbuilder. I'm guessing an online survey.  I'm guessing non-random sample.  I'm guessing a site that tends to be visited most often by, coincidentally, people in the jobs listed above.  We do get this bit of methodological notation:
Through this year’s survey of 4,700 U.S. workers, Dunkin’ Donuts and CareerBuilder® learned that scientists/lab technicians need coffee the most to keep their workday running. 
That's a helluva sample, 4,700 U.S. workers, but I'd love to know how they did it.  Telephone?  Or a SLOP (self-selected opinion poll)?  Passenger pigeon?

Finally, cops. They're not even on the list.  Nor firefighters.  Maybe they fall in the "government professional" category, but I'd doubt that even more given it could also mean other governmental types.

And, obviously, I'm upset that "professor" finishes only #8.  My colleagues need to step it up.

I can see PR/marketing folks finishing high on the list.  I'd drink coffee -- laced with arsenic -- if I had to spend my day spinning.  And lab technicians, it can get awfully dull in the lab if you're running the same set of experiments or assignments again and again.  But I would have expected nurses to finish higher.  Ah well, we can always quibble, but it's hard to do so when you don't have enough information to judge the quality of the survey itself.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NYT: Kinda Wrong

There's a story today in the New York Times that offers the following hed: 

Students’ Knowledge of Civil Rights History Has Deteriorated, Study Finds

Scary stuff.  If it were true.

The study by the Southern Poverty Law Center does not examine student knowledge.  Instead, it scores the states, on an A-to-F scale, on how well they incorporate "a body of knowledge that reflects what civil rights historians and educators consider core information about the civil rights movement."

That's not a measure of what students know.  That's a measure of what states teach.  While they're not mutually exclusive, nor are they the same thing.

And yet here's the NYT lede:

That ignorance by American students of the basic history of the civil rights movement has not changed — in fact, it has worsened, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, on whose board Mr. Bond sits. The report says that states’ academic standards for public schools are one major cause of the problem. 

Unless I'm missing a section of the report, it does not directly address changes in what students know about the civil rights movement.  The NYTimes article does note that scores on general history are pretty dismal in the U.S. and seem to be going down even more than other scores, such as math, but you cannot necessarily argue what we see above, that specific knowledge about civil rights has "deteriorated."

This may seem a petty difference, but I disagree.  A state's stated "core" is often different than what teachers discuss in the classroom, so you have to ask about the validity of the measure here.  But it's completely different to talk about what's in a core curriculum and what students actually know.  Are the two correlated?  No doubt.  Are they conceptually the same thing?  Absolutely not.  And for accuracy's sake, the NYT and SPLC should try harder.  The SPLC got it right in their conclusions, when they wrote: "As this report illustrates, states are failing to set high expectations for student knowledge about the civil rights movement."

For the graphically inclined, below is a map of how well state's did.  My state, Georgia, got a "B," one of the few times we outscored others.  You can also find the map here.




Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Local Matters Again?

Buried deep in a new Pew poll's methodology section is a question about how often folks follow local news and compares 2011 results with previous years.  Respondents were asked if they follow local news closely only when something important is happening or whether they follow it closely whether or not something important is happening.

The results are surprising and, to some, comforting.  My message?  Don't get comfortable quite yet.

According to the survey methods section, from 2002 to 2008, the percent of people who followed local news whether or not something important was happening hovered around 56 or 57 percent of U.S. respondents.  In the current 2011 survey, 72 percent said they followed local news whether or not something important was happening.

Wow.  That's a helluva jump.

I did a 2010 study in Newspaper Research Journal that used some of the same data but examined changes from 1998 to 2008.  My results are somewhat different, odd since I used Pew data, but this may be a function of my analysis strategy. Let's assume my data are somewhat different.  If so, the jump in the interest in local news demonstrated by the Pew report is stunning and, to me, while welcome -- also inexplicable.  Without access to the raw data for comparison purposes, let's look instead at changes in some of the other questions over time to see if we can find an explanation.
  •  The report includes a jump in "national" news interest (mid-50s most of the time to 68 percent in the latest report), which supports a change in local as well.
  • But, "international" interest doesn't follow the same trend.  This one jumps around a lot, probably due to current events in that given year.  Let's put it aside.
  • Here's my major methodological issue.  In previous Pew surveys, the "local" question comes late in the instrument after many questions about specific media use.  In the 2011 version, the "local" question comes quite early -- the sixth question asked.  In 2008, as a comparison, it's the 77th question asked.  It's possible these items were rotated in some random way, but if so I don't see it discussed.  It's likely respondents were primed differently when "local" news is asked after a long list of potential media consumption habits.  If I'm right, the jump is questionable, making comparisons across time problematic.
So we can't get to excited about the jump in local news interest, at least not until we find out whether it may be a methodological fluke rather than evidence of a sudden burning desire in the American public for local news.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Local News

Being a journalism guy I've always had an interest in local news.  In fact, one of my recent Newspaper Research Journal articles looked at the audience for local news over the past 10 years.  Now comes a new Pew study that digs even deeper.

My own stuff found newspapers had a core print audience of people interested in local and community news, particularly local government news.  Whether that audience is big enough to sustain a newspaper/online enterprise is a different matter, but this new Pew report suggests the interest in local has increased and newspapers play a key role, though people today use a mix of media to keep up with various kinds of local news.  The chart below says it all, at least in where people go for specific local news.

But buried deep in the report is a suggestion of growing interest in local news.  And, if you'll excuse the word play, is good news.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bad Polling

As readers know, I'm a constant critic of bad polling.  Here's an excellent post that takes to task Maine's news media's reporting of just such a suspicious poll.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Who Do You Believe?

There's a big report out today that examines high school students and their teachers. 

The main topic is First Amendment attitudes, but it also includes interesting data about Internet use, including a question about trust of media sources.  Asked if certain sources are "very truthful," high school students replied:
  • Newspapers: 31 percent
  • Television: 17 percent.
  • Internet: 9 percent
  • Social Network: 7 percent
Wow.  Teachers gave similar results.  See the report (pdf) and the table for Section 10. 

What's fascinating is how much higher students scored newspapers as "very truthful" (31 percent) than did teachers (14 percent).  The downside of this, of course, is students rarely read a newspaper.  Perhaps if they did, they'd score it lower.  We can't answer that from the data here, but they are hopeful from a print news perspective, which of course is the form of media most closely associated with learning about politics and public affairs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

HPV Knowledge

The HPV vaccine has been in the news of late, so it seems useful to look at a little research on the topic that kinda sorta fits my blog's topic.  In this case, research on what people know or think they know, and their attitudes toward, the vaccine.
  • Here's a study, abstract only, that examines the attitudes of gay and heterosexual men.  They found gay men more accepting of the vaccine.
  • Another study finds moral beliefs play a big role among Asians in considering the vaccine.
  • Indeed, studying college students on the topic appears to be a cottage industry.  Here's one study that gets at knowledge.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Men and Testosterone

As everyone has heard in the last day or so, research finds that a man's testosterone levels drop when he gets married.  It also goes up when he gets divorced.  While the research doesn't examine directly why this happens, though we can all take a good guess it has to do with mating.  And the research fails to look at all the other ways a man's testosterone level can change even during a regular day.*

A pretty girl smiles at you at the coffee shop (testosterone up).  You walk out with your coffee and get into your minivan (testosterone down).  At the store you buy some vitamins (testosterone down)**.  You also get some beer (testosterone up).  You watch Antique Roadshow (testosterone down).  And then you flip the channel and catch some Monday Night football (testosterone up).  That night you have a glass of wine (testosterone down), the next night a glass of good single-malt Scotch (testosterone way up).

It's a vicious cycle we men must endure.

*    None of this is based on any actual research.
**  And if you buy Depends for yourself, testosterone way down.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What Wisconsinites Know ... about ethanol

There's a survey out that measures what folks in Wisconsin think about ethanol.  I know, your first response is who cares about Wisconsin and who really cares about ethanol.  Get passed that.  In a report about the research, down in the story, is a bit about what people know:
Respondents' actual knowledge about ethanol was also mixed. While ethanol does, in fact, burn cleaner than gasoline, only 53 percent believed this to be the case, while 41 percent thought the two were about the same and 6 percent believed ethanol burns dirtier that gasoline.
On a similar theme (that theme being what people in the frozen north think), there's this story about Canadians "befuddled about debt."  As the lede reports:
There’s yet more evidence that Canadians are clueless about when they might realistically be free of debt. And the current low interest rate environment is to blame for that, according to consumer debt survey by Manulife Bank of Canada.
I find it strangely comforting when others are as confused as those of us in the U.S.

Or Wisconsin, which I'm told is somewhere in Canada.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pop vs Soda vs Coke

It's been a long time, in blog years at least, since I revisited this topic, but it's a good one so let's fondly recall the raging debate not about budget deficits and job creation but instead about something truly important -- how to correctly refer to a soft drink.

Below you'll see the map that looks at how people around the country refer to soft drinks (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc.).  You can also go directly to the site (mislabeled popvssoda when we all know coke is the correct generic term) and read up on the methodology, see better choices on mapping, and so on.  It's cool.

The red is coke and found mostly in the South.  Blue is soda, used largely in the northeast.  Green is pop and is found in the vast middle of the country.   There's also a state-by-state table form of the data for the geeks among you.

Want to dig deeper?  There's a map that breaks it down by U.S. counties, which I used for a 2008 column that correlated this data with presidential voting. My column is slow to load, at least for me, but you can read it here.  And why wouldn't you? 

I'm thinking of predicting the presidential primaries or 2012 election with these data.  It takes a lot of work to pull off but might be worth a little statistical fun.  I'll keep you posted and if I do it, it'll probably run on some online news site as well as here.

The label's geographic differences do roughly fit a cultural, or even ideological breakdown.  Left and right coasts, they agree, and tend to be more liberal.  The South is more conservative and therefore could never use the same term as those Yankees and Left Coast types.  Folks in the upper Midwest, etc.?  They gotta have their own thing too as representatives (or so they'd say) of real America. 

But as a child of the South (grew up in Tennessee, have lived in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and now Georgia), I can only refer to soft drinks as coke.  Yes, even if it's a (ugh) Pepsi.

Unless of course we're talking about Sun-Drop, the greatest soft drink every made.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Afghans Don't Know

What is this 9/11 thing of which you speak?  That may be the response of most Afghans, according to this Atlantic Wire mention of a Wall Street Journal story.
According to a survey of 15- to 30-year-old men in the two southern provinces where President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops, 92% of respondents said they didn't know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11" after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.
 They must really wonder what the hell we're doing there.


Why do certain people hate science?

A day after the leading contender for the Republican nomination to take on Barack Obama said he doubts all the science about global climate change, you have to wonder why mostly conservatives want to doubt science.  Is it because they don't like the answers objective scientific scrutiny provides?  Probably. 

Which brings us to this excellent Forbes article from a week or so ago.
Anti-science ideology isn’t completely new in the U.S. — there is a dismaying history of irrational, pseudoscientific, or downright anti-scientific thinking and political culture here. But it seems to be gaining momentum — even as it runs counter to America’s scientific and technological strengths. Such strengths, in fact, underpin our economic and political strengths.

Leading GOPer Rick Perry stumbled badly last night in answering a question about global climate change.  Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, he's certain his take is the right one.  "Galileo got outvoted for a spell," he said.  Yes, Gov. Perry, except it was religious leaders, not scientists, who outvoted him.  Perry may very well be the eventual nominee, but let's not put him in the high IQ category. This is a guy who managed a "D" in economics.  At Texas A&M.

The Republican Party can do better.  Not only better than Perry, who I think will not only win the nomination but also be a serious challenge to Obama, but the party can do better when it comes to science rather than attacking scientists.  You don't like the answers?  Find another job than public office.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crazy People

The American Community Survey is a vital tool by the Census folks to help us understand ourselves, how our demographics are changing, and even how we're doing economically.  But then again, you get crazy people like this who really do need to buy a clue.  I love his "supposedly randomly picked."  Paranoid, much?  Or just statistically challenged?

In this vent, are you truly required by law to respond?  Oh yeah, just like the Census.  As they note:

Yes. You are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can.

The relevant laws are Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221.

Your answers are important. As part of a sample, you represent many other people. Find out how each question helps your community, your state, and the federal government in questions in the form and why we ask.
I suppose you can argue that you only want to obey the laws you like.  Then again, how can you dislike us knowing as much about ourselves as is possible?  The data are all made public, for crying out loud.   It's not as if they're collecting secret data on you, though I suppose for some folks they also see black helicopters flying around their house at night.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Survey Friday

And now in honor of Friday (and my birthday) I give you my favorite surveys from today's news:
On the divorce thing, of course I'm gonna hide assets.  The key to the story above is people think it's happening more often than it used to.  Probably so.  On the meat one -- I just cook the hell out of a burger and assume I'm okay.  On the sports thing ... got nothing for you.  Try to avoid sports that don't include bending elbows and liquid consumption.

Have a helluva holiday weekend.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Health Knowledge

A bit obscure, but here's a brief bit about what people know about their own health -- specifically about their cholesterol.  Survey says: only a third know their own cholesterol level.

Shamefully, I don't know mine.  At least not lately.  The survey found only two-out-of-five know high levels can cause  atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries).  For you non-math majors, that means three folks out of five don't know this.

I did at least know that one (he said, sitting in his office chair, letting plaque build up).