The most expensive opinion poll

December 05, 2008 11:32 AM

The Centre for Social Cohesion have produced an interesting rebuttal to a controversial report about campus radicalism today. Dr June Edmunds, a Cambridge academic, has produced a report saying that the Government's view of Islamist extremism on University campuses is exagerrated. The only problem is, she based her conclusion on interviews with only 41 people, many of whom were supplied by biased groups, and it cost taxpayers £78,690.32.


Leaving aside that slightly bizarre 32 pence (a specific grant consideration for a pack of three biros, perhaps?), that is a huge amount of money to spend on a study that used a interview cohort that is far too small to be statistically reliable. Compare the small number of subjects interviewed to the scale of the funding, and it's the equivalent of £1,919 per person questioned. If the TPA just interviewed 41 people and tried to issue it as an opinon poll representing 90,000 people as Dr Edmunds has done, we would be laughed out of town.


By contrast, the CSC have done their own YouGov poll of 600 Muslim students, which is a rather more representative and statistically reliable sample - added to which they didn't go through biased organisations to recruit the people they questioned. There's nothing wrong with academics studying issues like campus extremism, but it is hardly good value for money or indeed great opinion studying practice to spend such a lot to consult so few and conclude so much.

The Centre for Social Cohesion have produced an interesting rebuttal to a controversial report about campus radicalism today. Dr June Edmunds, a Cambridge academic, has produced a report saying that the Government's view of Islamist extremism on University campuses is exagerrated. The only problem is, she based her conclusion on interviews with only 41 people, many of whom were supplied by biased groups, and it cost taxpayers £78,690.32.


Leaving aside that slightly bizarre 32 pence (a specific grant consideration for a pack of three biros, perhaps?), that is a huge amount of money to spend on a study that used a interview cohort that is far too small to be statistically reliable. Compare the small number of subjects interviewed to the scale of the funding, and it's the equivalent of £1,919 per person questioned. If the TPA just interviewed 41 people and tried to issue it as an opinon poll representing 90,000 people as Dr Edmunds has done, we would be laughed out of town.


By contrast, the CSC have done their own YouGov poll of 600 Muslim students, which is a rather more representative and statistically reliable sample - added to which they didn't go through biased organisations to recruit the people they questioned. There's nothing wrong with academics studying issues like campus extremism, but it is hardly good value for money or indeed great opinion studying practice to spend such a lot to consult so few and conclude so much.

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