10 June 2005

Double threat: young and smart

Last Saturday's Telegram carried a front page story by Rob Antle on a poll conducted by Ryan Research for the provincial government back in January. They were surveying attitudes to the Williams administration's negotiations on the offshore deal.

The survey covered a sample of 1200 people across the country and was conducted from 4-9 January.

Since I have the privilege and the fun of teaching in an introductory public relations program, Rob's piece gave a chance to combine both writing and research analysis into one class.

Basically, the students were asked to look at the piece and offer some observations.

Well, low and behold they came up with a couple of doozies.

First of all they agreed that Rob had actually buried a really interesting coincidence way down in the story. Appreciating he may have been rushed, burying the lede isn't all that unusual for any writer.

But basically, here's the thing - Rob hinted at it - spelled out clearly.

Canadian flags came down in December.

The survey asked for agreement or disagreement with the decision.

60% of respondents did not support the decision at all. Now to make it clear to non-pollster types, on the scale used that is the most extreme disagreement.

Survey results came back on the 9th.

Flags went back up on the 10th despite Danny's commitment that they would stay down until the feds caved in.

So basically, if Danny got the overnight quickie results of that single question, he knew that his flag flap was actually a flag fiasco. There is just too much of a correlation here for this to be a fluke.

But here's something else my students picked up and I missed entirely: the sample breakdown.

1200 in total. 400 in Newfoundland and Labrador. 200 in the Maritimes. 200 In Quebec. 200 in Ontario. And 200 from Manitoba to BC.

Half the freakin' sample came from east of Quebec, which the last time I checked did not have half the country's population.

Think about that for a minute though. If 60% of respondents hated Danny tearing down flags, where were half of those located? Most likely in Atlantic Canada, said the bright-eyed ones. So basically he was alienating people who should ordinarily be supporting him.

Now I'll admit it is hard to be firm in this little assessment since the class was working off the news story and not the research report.

Still, I'd be willing to venture that there is a better story in what my students observed than was readily apparent.

Something tells me they are going to do very well in their program.

I'll just have to watch out. They are young and smart.

A definite double threat.