Of all the aspects of our work, the acuity of our analysis is where we stick our flag in the ground.
It’s the culmination of the research process, the place where aims, methods and raw results come together to produce the ultimate goal – understanding.
Our data analysis is not merely descriptive, a parade of numbers in the absence of context or thoughtful evaluation. Nor do we break the bonds of empirical justification, floating into spurious associations and unsupported conclusions.
We hold our findings to the rigors of our discipline; every assertion is supported by the data and, when appropriate, tested for significance. But we also go further, enlightening our analysis with context, background, meaningful associations and clear, insightful narrative, approachable at any level of survey expertise.
In Afghanistan, we haven’t just reported on experience of civilian casualties; we’ve established the corrosive effect of those experiences on support for the U.S. and NATO mission. At home we’ve provided historical comparisons to presidential approval – but contextually rather than merely chronologically. We’ve taken on the myth of the “moral values” vote in 2004 and the “Bradley effect” in 2008. And we’ve moved beyond measuring political anger to evaluate its roots and sum it up in a Frustration Index highly correlated with election outcomes.
We seek, in these and more, to know not just where attitudes stand, but to capture the underlying principles and preferences that brought them here and will carry them forward.
The results have been recognized by our colleagues. In the crowded field of election poll analysis in 2008, our blog, “The Numbers,” was chosen by the University of Iowa and the Gallup Organization as that year’s recipient of their award for “Excellent Journalism Using Polls.” Our colleague George Stephanopoulos, the ABC News anchor, says: “No one I know can write polls so cleanly, read them so accurately and speak about them so clearly.”
You don’t sing to the data, we say; you let the data sing to you. The trick is to hear the tune.