‘Survey-speak’: needless sounds
One of the most irritating and confusing jargons to emerge in recent times is that so-called “net satisfaction or dissatisfaction ratings” used in reports on public opinion surveys. The “plus” and “minus” figures that are supposed to represent poll ratings or their changes only confuse the readers and force them to resort to unwelcome mental calisthenics in order to divine the meaning of the survey findings. Yet, journalistic reports are supposed to be clear, concise and simple.
Percentages are a fraction of the denominator 100. So if 50 percent approve of a personality, that means that 50 out of 100, or one-half of the respondents, approve of the issue or the personality. There is no such thing as a “net” percentage, since all percentages are already net. The difference between those who approve or disapprove, or who have no position, is meaningless, for it is already clear in the percentage numbers.
That is why no foreign media ever use our “net percentage ratings” of plus or minus, for what is being sought is the number of approvals or disapprovals as a fraction of the number 100. The phrase “plus 24” is meaningless, unless another number is supplied on the other side of the equation. A simple percentage of yes or no is sufficient to give the picture.
I think that the pollsters or survey agencies that introduced this gobbledygook are only trying to appear or sound smarter than others, to project themselves—by pedagogic means, jargon, gibberish, mumbo-jumbo, balderdash, bureaucratese, babble, baloney and the like – as wise.
Let’s just report simply. If the approval rating has gone down, say, from 68 percent to 64 percent, just say it dropped 4 percentage points. That will be clear and concise.
—MANUEL F. ALMARIO,
spokesman, Movement for
Truth in History,
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