DISCUS

Researchers, Journalists Expose Serious Flaws in American Medical Association Spring Break Poll

June 7, 2006 08:00 PM
-- AMA Admits Spring Break Poll Was “Media Advocacy Tool” Not “Scientific Study” -- WASHINGTON, DC – After hundreds of news outlets ran articles and broadcast segments last March on an American Medical Association Spring Break poll on women and drinking, professional pollsters and journalists are exposing significant flaws in the poll’s methodology and findings. The problem, as discovered by Cliff Zukin, Rutgers University Professor and President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, and outlined in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal articles below, was that the AMA misrepresented the poll’s findings and methodology to the media. The AMA omitted from their release that only 27 percent of their sample of 644 women ages 17 to 35 had ever even taken a spring break trip and that many of the sensational statistics were based solely on 174 women (27 percent). Further, it was not a “random sample” of 644 women with a “margin of error” but was actually an opt-in volunteer sample poll conducted on the Internet. When the methodology error was brought to the AMA’s attention, the AMA expunged the error on its press release posted on their website but did not go back to alert the media of their mistake. Below are links to recent Washington Post and Wall Street Journal articles regarding the widespread reporting of this scientifically invalid AMA poll; corrections from the AP and NYT; and links to the Mystery Pollster blog, which first reported on the issue. • The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz May 29 column, “Sex, Booze & Surveys: Journos Gone Wild”AP Correction issued May 30 • NYT Correction issued April 16 • June 1 Wall Street Journal column, "Watching the Pollsters" • The Mystery Pollster Blog detailing the correspondence between Rutgers Professor Cliff Zukin and the AMA, and Mystery Pollster’s June 1 update A number of network programs that ran segments on the poll − including CBS's "Early Show," NBC's "Today," CNN's "American Morning," and "Fox & Friends" − have yet to correct the record. “The distillers agree that any amount of underage drinking is too much -- it’s irresponsible and illegal -- but no one benefits from the dissemination of inaccurate information,” said Frank Coleman, Senior Vice President of the Distilled Spirits Council. “The AMA stated that this survey was not science based but rather was a ‘media advocacy tool’ -- a very troubling admission from an organization whose stated purpose is to promote the science of medicine.” CONTACT: Public Affairs Telephone: 202-682-8840 SCROLLER Publication Name: Publication Author:
 

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