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Monday, March 07, 2011

YNet needs to learn how to read polls

From YNet:
Israel is one of the least popular countries in the world, according to a survey conducted by Globescan for the BBC in 27 different states.

More than 28,000 people were polled between December of 2010 and February of this year in a survey designed to gauge attitudes towards various countries worldwide.

Just 21% of those polled expressed a positive opinion of Israel, while 49% expressed a negative attitude towards the Jewish state. However dismal, the numbers are still an improvement from last year, when just 19% were pro-Israel.

Of the 17 countries included in the survey, only three were found to be less popular than Israel – Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran – with 17% and 16% of those polled supporting them, respectively. More than 55% of those polled expressed a negative attitude towards these states.
When looking at a poll, it is critical to know the question being asked.

And the question being asked in this poll was not "how much do you like country X?" as YNet seems to imply. It was:

Please tell me if you think each of the following countries is having a mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world:

That is a completely different question and it is not a popularity question (although some of the surveyed will of course think of it that way.)

Also, since the poll started, Israel's numbers have been generally rising! Amongthe bottom of the list, only Israel's ratings went up this year, while Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran went down.

The one troubling part is that while Americans who were positive about Israel's influence stayed the same, the number who were negative increased by 10%.

I'm not trying to say that Israel's numbers would be great if it was a popularity poll, but reporters need to learn to understand basic English.

One other thing: The poll only asks people about 17 countries. No Arab countries are on the list. How would Saudi Arabia, or Libya, or Syria, or even Egypt rank in this list? Who knows? But I would guess that the world does not have warm feelings for those countries' influence either. So when Arab news outlets trumpet this report that Israel is ranked so low, it makes one wonder how they would perform.

And how come the BBC doesn't think that they should be included.