Thursday, June 4, 2009

Campaign Survey

Several of the English news outlets in Mongolia are reporting that the Open Society Forum recently conducted an analysis of campaign publicity and a survey of where people received their information during the presidential campaign. An example story, which appears to be the same story being recycled by all the news outlets is here: There are two interesting things about the analysis and survey.

1. The amount of negative stories and information from both campaigns and the media in general was essentially the same. Assuming they selected stories randomly and there was a uniform, if not overly objective, analysis of the content, then the 3 percent difference might just be noise. At any rate, there is evidence that both campaigns had an equal share of sinners and misguided supporters.

2. The number of people who tended to believe negative stories about the incumbent president was higher than the number of people who believed negative stories about the president by a wide margin. This is really interesting.

Number 2 raises several questions about the survey methodology; e.g., were respondents randomly selected, was there a control for party affiliation, what was the exact wording of the questions, and so on. Assuming the numbers are accurate from a methodological and therefore statistical standpoint, the next set of questions is: What is the reason for the large margin? Were negative stories about Elbegdorj more patently false? Was the Democratic Party more astute at framing issues and attacking Enkhbayar's character? Were people more predisposed to believe negative stories about the incumbent and to disregard negative stories about the opposition? Are responses a true reflection of people's beliefs, or do the numbers show a reverse bump for Elbegdorj post-victory? That is, are people remembering the situation differently because he won the election?

A related observation from this data is that a majority of those surveyed tended not believe the negative stories about either side. What that actually means in terms of votes is impossible to say without more information, but it does say something about the respondents themselves. Either they really were not swayed by the stories or they are aware enough of the political process and the lack of credibility of media outlets to want to openly state that they are not naive, even if in fact they may be. Does this indicate that the average voter is far more sophisticated about his/her media consumption and personal analysis than popular sentiments might concede?

The news stories about the analysis and survey don't answer any of the vital questions these data raise, and I am not sure if Open Society Forum will release the report in full (I will try to get my hands on it). The story does demonstrate further, however, that the voting public in Mongolia may be tougher to pin down than common wisdom indicates. We need more work done like this, especially by people willing to go the next step and to analyze the results.

No comments: