May 28, 2013

Online Redskins poll demonstrates bias

The heat on Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder continues to increase:

The Redskins: Lawmakers pressure owner to change the team name

By Emma MargolinA group of nine Democratic House lawmakers and one Republican sent a letter on Tuesday to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, urging them to change what they feel is a “derogatory, demeaning, and offensive” team name.

“Native Americans throughout the country consider the term ‘redskin’ a racial, derogatory slur akin the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” read the letter. “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw wide-spread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

The group of lawmakers who signed the letter is the same that introduced a bill in March designed to block companies from trademarking the term “redskin” in reference to Native Americans. There is no indication that the legislation will ever see the light of day in the House.
Comment:  The interesting part of this posting is the online poll. It demonstrates how bogus these "Redskins" polls are.

The choices are:

  • Yes, it's offensive
  • No, it's not offensive
  • No, even though it's offensive, there are bigger problems that deserve our attention

  • What the heck is the third option doing there? Why give "yes" voters a second option? It's offensive, but not that offensive, so change my "yes" vote to a "no" vote?

    How are we supposed to interpret the third option? You agree the name is offensive, but you don't think it's important enough to bother with? Who cares how significant you think this issue is to Indians and others? If you agree the name insults an ethnic group, it's racist by definition and should go whether you care or not.

    How about adding a few more "yes" options to match the additional "no" option?

  • Yes, it's extremely offensive and should've been changed long ago
  • Yes, it's offensive, but I don't mind if the team takes its time to change it

  • You see how adding more "yes" or "no" options would change the results?

    It's ridiculous to have two "offense" options and one "importance" option in the same question. It confuses two different issues. The question should be two questions: 1) Is the name offensive? And 2) Should the team change its name?

    Or have a matrix with four possible answers: 1) Offensive/change it. 2) Offensive/don't change it. 3) Not offensive/change it. 4) Not offensive/don't change it. Right now the poll offers only three of the four possible options, a clear flaw.

    Believing biased polls

    That Redskins fans might think this is an unbiased poll is part of the problem. These people are offering excuse after excuse not to change the name--and may not even realize it. When they get the result they expect from their (unconsciously?) biased poll, they wonder why activists are still protesting. Because your flimsy rationales are rooted in a history of racism, stereotyping, and white privilege, geniuses. It's obvious to us even if you're blind to your own prejudices.

    The Associated Press poll was almost as bad. And unlike this online poll, the AP poll really was supposed to measure public opinion.

    The AP poll implicitly gave respondents a reason to change a "yes" to a "no." That's why we should take all these polls with a shaker full of salt. They're designed by amateurs who aren't taking conflicted views into account. Or by "professionals" who know which result is "supposed to" win.

    For more on the Washington Redskins, see Redskins Player Defends "Redskins" Name and "Inuit Chief" Supports Washington Redskins.


    Anonymous said...

    The bigger problem is an online poll.

    If everyone on the internet told the truth, I'm having sex with a different woman every hour, on the hour.

    Rob said...

    I think most people understand that online polls are bogus because the responses aren't random. If not, they don't know the first thing about polling.

    But most people probably are not aware of the hidden biases in mascot polls. Including polls done offline by respectable media organizations.

    So I'm not sure the unreliability of online polls is the biggest problem here. Both problems are worth addressing.