Thursday, July 02, 2015


Star-Advertiser Big Q demonstrates Big Bias against homeless residents

by Larry Geller

20150702 Big Q_1

Today’s Big Q, which is only a poll in the loosest sense of the word since little effort is put in to crafting fair questions, is “In light of the assault on a legislator, should the growing homeless encampment in Kakaako be dismantled?”

Suppose they had worded this differently. For example, “Given that they have no place to go, should the homeless encampment in Kakaako be dismantled?”

But coming up with a fair question (and my wording is also not the best) would require both a degree of compassion in this case as well as an understanding of research methodology, both of which seem demonstrably lacking over there at the offices of our one remaining daily newspaper.

The wording of this question is perfectly congruent with the strong opinions voiced by the editorial page editors yesterday—see Star-Advertiser editors push for exterminating homeless from Kakaako (7/1/2015). Their egregious bias in the poll wording effectively predetermines the outcome in the way they prefer.

Yes, I understand it’s an “unscientific” poll. Clearly.

What this and other Big Q polls can demonstrate very scientifically is the extent of any bias on the part of the writers and editors.

I’m sure that a research project limited to analyzing these polls could come up with something interesting to say about the attitude of the editors who determine what content appears in the paper—on a variety of subjects in the public spotlight.

Let me contrast the position of the newspaper with a snip from a Civil Beat editorial posted today:

And let’s be clear: To an extent there is danger in the area, it is specific to the homeless who live there in unsanitary conditions, scorched by temperatures consistently in the 90s, buffeted by occasional summer rains and vulnerable to any number of disease outbreaks that are common in such camps.

Others are calling for the Kakaako encampment to be demolished. Assuming the hundreds of living and breathing people who reside there won’t simply vanish into thin air, bulldozing their makeshift shelters would lack a degree of basic humanity that we ought to require in our public policies.

How is this related to the wording of a Big Q poll? It’s a similar lack of any “degree of basic humanity” revealed by the wording of today’s question, obviously.


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