Strategic Revision: New Survey Supplants Old

August 2, 2010

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion,” goes an old saying attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “but not to his own facts.”

This is especially true in the world of think tankery, where credibility is the coin of the realm. People may disagree with OCPA’s opinions—and believe me, many people do—but it’s another matter altogether to have people questioning our facts.

You may recall an article which appeared in these pages last year to coincide with Constitution Day (“Mourning Constitutional,” September 2009). The article was based on the results of a statewide survey OCPA had commissioned to determine the level of basic civic literacy (or illiteracy, as it turned out) among Oklahoma high-school students. To do the research, OCPA had hired a nationally known firm, Strategic Vision LLC, whose surveys had been cited by several national publications and had been ranked as some of the most accurate in the country.

But even as the September issue of Perspective was hitting mailboxes, controversy was beginning to swirl around Strategic Vision. In a September 23 rebuke, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) announced 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.”

As for the survey of civic literacy in Oklahoma, Strategic Vision stands by its results. Are those results valid? We have our doubts. And because Strategic Vision has, disturbingly, failed to provide additional information we have requested from them, their survey results have been removed from OCPA’s website.

As you can see, the results of a new statewide survey appear in this month’s issue. For this survey OCPA commissioned SoonerPoll, an Oklahoma firm with an impeccable record of transparency and disclosure. The firm also does polling for the Tulsa World, whose managing editor, Susan Ellerbach, affirms that SoonerPoll meets very high standards.

Which is crucial. Because in this business, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.