Survey respondents need to have questions that they really can answer

The political season is the time for statistics. Frequently the statistics lack validity.

For the presidential race, the time still is too early to obtain a meaningful idea of the public mind. Some political parties have not even put forth candidates.

Public opinion polling frequently is simply an exercise in name recognition. Johnny Araya Monge has been leading the polls, but even he has not enunciated all his platform.

Today La Nación said that it would report the results of a survey in which citizens were asked to evaluate the work of President Laura Chinchilla. Considering that many citizens could not even find Casa Presidencial on a map, that is a questionable exercise,

Few citizens have the knowledge to accurately evaluate the president or any other public official. What the survey shows is perception rather than a true evaluation. Historians spend years trying to evaluate the work of heads of state.

There is no doubt that the surveys and polls that are reported this political season are done competently with the correct number of respondents and the random contacts that professional polling requires. But a key element of polling is to ask a question that respondents can be expected to answer knowledgeably.

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