Misleading story about internet poll concerning Iran's nuclear program


Misleading story about internet poll concerning Iran's nuclear program
by CIM

1.  A "poll" is the casting and registering of votes on an issue from a sample size that enables one to project the views of a larger population by using statistical modeling.  
2.  An unsubstantiated story going around the internet claims that the Government of Iran conducted a poll that concluded that, "Sixty-three percent of users said they favor suspending Iran's uranium enrichment in exchange for a gradual lifting of international sanctions."  However, no one appears to be able to produce a screen shot (or even a dead link) to the alleged poll (we have tools that enable us to retrieve deleted information from the internet).
3.  The claimed results of the alleged poll are also dubious on their face given that most people subject to economic sanctions would reasonably be expected to desire an immediate lifting of sanctions and not a "gradual lifting" of sanctions, as the poll claims.  It is not impossible for this to have been the result of a poll (if one was in fact conducted), but on its face it raises questions and must be verified.  So far, there is not even a showing that a poll was conducted.
4.  One link we received to the alleged poll to supposedly prove the poll was conducted by the 'Government of Iran' leads only leads to a Pars Daily News, which is not the 'Government of Iran,' but an exile-group website in support of Mr. Pahlavi.  
5.  We do not care who anyone supports in terms of political figures - whether it is Pahlavi or whomever. But one of the duties we have is to determine whether stories passed-off as news are factually accurate.  In this case, the story about the Government of Iran conducting a poll that appears at the link provided is false.
6.  One of the matters we are aware occurs on this website with regularity and that we investigate and pursue are internet threats aimed at influencing or inhibiting the participation and speech of people seeking to contribute to online dialogue.  We take that very seriously as two individuals recently learned in the real world through the service of papers relating to California Penal Code § 646.9 (anti-Cyberstalking statute: unlawful threat "means a verbal or written threat, including that performed through the use of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct..." ) and 47 USC § 223.   If you have been made the subject of unlawful threats on this website be certain to report those threats to your local law enforcement and to contact the US Department of Justice at AskDOJ@usdoj.gov. You can also make send a screenshot of the improper activity to us to help us keep a record of websites that permit others to influence or inhibit participation and speech through unfair business practices.      


After having reviewed what is being termed as a "poll" - These are the comments we can make:

  • A true "Poll" ensures that it is representative, reliable and scientific.  A problem arises when people attempt to conduct a poll but do not limit the questions asked to their target audience.   What does that mean?  For example, if you are a food supplier and you try to conduct of poll of whether Saudis would like to eat bacon for dinner to determine if there is demand for your meat products in Saudi Arabia, but you broadcast the questionaire into Germany also, your "poll" is not limited to the intended target audience and you will include an artificial margin of error.  The hypothetical poll supposedly was intended to gauge Saudi views and not German views.  However, if Germans vote because they really love bacon or want to sell a lot of it, then you have a problem.  On an issue like Iran's nuclear program (which is hotly contested by many countries) an internet "poll" causes a targeting problem.  What you are left with is not a "poll," but an information war between competing states or factions.  

  • The second problem you have with the the way the question was asked is that the internet allows you to vote 2, 3, 4, 5, or as many times as your heart desires. This is what is known as a 'Sampling Bias,' which is a "systematic error due to study of a nonrandom sample of a population."  The reason pollsters randomly telephone people and then take that phone number off of their list is to prevent this problem.  What does that mean in practice?  For example, if you tried to conduct a true poll, which is supposed to be a statistical projection of a larger population's views, you would have this problem depending on how the poll was conducted.  Assume the question asked was, "Do you think Iranians should eat strawberry cheesecake for dinner?"  The user that goes by the name Amir_Parviz_For_Strawberry_Cheesecake might vote 2, 3, 4, or many times simply based on what we know his biases (preferences) are and how strongly he feels about them.  (He might be honorable and vote once, but we know that people will repeatedly vote their biases if they are strongly felt.)


  • The first conclusion that can be drawn is that what is being termed a "poll" was not a poll at all.  It was a poorly-crafted attempt at one and the website in Iran that posted it did a terrible job, totally lacking in scientific value.  Should the so-called "poll" have been removed because it was unrepresentative, unreliable and unscientific?  Yes.  Nonetheless, the website in Iran made a poor choice in posting it in the first instance.  There is no escaping their poor methodology.   

  • The second conclusion that can be drawn is that the BBC exploited that.  The BBC has a lot of smart people who understand the deficiencies of the unrepresentative, unreliable and unscientific "poll."  And they know what a real poll is.  However, the BBC immediately pounced on the removal of the questions and used it to spin the story for its propaganda value (that is not impartial reporting - that is dishonesty).  Ironically, the Iranian website that posted the questions claims that they removed the so-called "poll" because they found out that people from outside of Iran were voting because it had been linked-to on a BBC site.  

So there you have it:  It wasn't a true poll; the methodology used by the website in Iran was awful; and the BBC exploited the so-called "poll" for its propaganda value instead seeking to educate people about the flaws of the "poll."  To be perfectly frank, I am not sure who was smarter: the Iranian website or the BBC.  If tomorrow the Iranian website admitted the deficiencies in the poll and stated that they posted it to show that the BBC engages in propaganda regarding Iran's nuclear program, they may be deemed the clever ones because that could easily be proven based on how the BBC reported the story.


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BBC is full of it !!!!!

by مآمور on

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Thanks for the remarks - Your questions answered

by CIM on

Please read the "update" section added after you sent the links.  We will still have to have some of the text translated: The story doesn't seem to be that it was a bad poll, or that it was removed, but rather the way the BBC reported it.


What happened to the poll?

by acopier101 on

See here to dicifer what happened to the poll, source BBC >>>


There was a poll,,,

by acopier101 on

There was a poll.  The article about the poll is now removed, but here is Print Scrren of it, in IRINN website, and an article trying to explain away what went on,,,

Source: see here >>>


The government of Iran conducted the poll

by acopier101 on

The government of Iran conducted the poll.

Source: //www.irinn.ir/web/guest/home

Islamic Republic of Iran's Radio and Television Broadcasting System (sedaa va seema jomhoree'a eslaamee iran) is a governmental entity, so is IRINN.



by acopier101 on

Poll, "a sampling or collection of opinions on a subject, taken from either a selected or a random group of persons, as for the purpose of analysis."

Source: //dictionary.reference.com/browse/Poll?s=t