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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Raises Objections to Actions by Atlanta-Based Strategic Vision LLC


September 23, 2009

Media Contact:
Deanna Marchetti
Communications Marketing Manager
Phone: (847) 205-2651, ext. 255
e-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.aapor.org

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) found that Strategic Vision LLC, an Atlanta-based company, repeatedly refused to release essential facts about polls it published prior to the 2008 presidential primaries in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. The AAPOR Executive Council announced today that this nondisclosure by Strategic Vision LLC was inconsistent with the association's Code of Professional Ethics and Practices and contrary to basic principles of scientific research.

AAPOR’s inquiry began as part of its extensive evaluation of the methodological factors in last year’s pre-election polls, most notably those preceding the New Hampshire Democratic primary. As part of its evaluation, AAPOR requested information from 21 organizations that published pre-primary poll results in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Wisconsin or California. Strategic Vision LLC was the only polling firm that did not provide sufficient methodological information (as defined by the AAPOR Code) about its surveys and refused to provide that information in response to AAPOR’s repeated direct requests.

For more than one year, AAPOR was unable to obtain the following basic information about Strategic Vision LLC’s polling in New Hampshire and Wisconsin: who sponsored the survey; who conducted it; a description of the underlying sampling frame; an accounting of how “likely voters” were identified and selected; response rates; and a description of any weighting or estimating procedures used. AAPOR considers the release of this information for public polls to be a minimum requirement for professional behavior among those who conduct public opinion research.

Following Strategic Vision LLC’s failure to respond to AAPOR’s inquiries, a complaint was filed alleging a violation of the association’s Code of Professional Ethics and Practices. The investigation process included two notices of non-compliance to Mr. David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision LLC, who explicitly refused to provide the requested information. Later, after receiving notification of the association’s initial findings of a violation, Mr. Johnson offered partial but incomplete information. AAPOR never received any information about response rates, weighting, or estimating procedures. The AAPOR Executive Council now concludes that the repeated noncompliance by Strategic Vision LLC was a violation of the AAPOR Code.

Stephen J. Blumberg, chair of AAPOR’s Standards Committee, noted that the complaint and AAPOR’s subsequent investigation of Strategic Vision LLC focused solely on the issue of disclosure. “In no way did the investigation address the quality of work by Strategic Vision, the accuracy of the polls, or the integrity of the company,” Blumberg said. “AAPOR’s singular goal when enforcing its Code is to maintain the public’s confidence in public opinion research. Confidence is strengthened when researchers disclose aspects of their work that may have a direct bearing on the data produced and the interpretation of the results.”

AAPOR President Peter V. Miller added, “The AAPOR Code does not prescribe particular research methods. Rather, it lays out a set of norms to which anyone engaged in public opinion research should adhere. Transparency is one of those norms.”

Section III of the AAPOR Code states: “Good professional practice imposes the obligation upon all public opinion researchers to include, in any report of research results, or to make available when that report is released, certain essential information about how the research was conducted.” Strategic Vision LLC’s employees are not members of AAPOR. However, AAPOR holds that all researchers, regardless of their membership in the association, must disclose, or make available upon request, basic methodological details whenever survey findings are made public. Membership in the association is irrelevant to the applicability of AAPOR’s Code and its review of actions of public opinion research organizations.

The resolution of this investigation also concludes AAPOR’s official evaluation of the pre-election polls prior to the 2008 presidential primaries.