Categories
Antivaccine nonsense Autism Entertainment/culture Medicine Television

Another idiotic poll: Do you think vaccines are safe?

A friend of mine sent me a link to one of my hometown news stations because he saw something that irritated him. On the front page, there is a poll of such epic burning stupid that it requires an immediate crash. I may not be P.Z., but I have in some instances overcome my previous dislike of poll crashing, especially when it’s a poll this stupid:

Do you think immunizations are safe?

Yes
No

As if an Internet poll has any bearing whatsoever on whether vaccines are safe or even on whether people believe vaccines are safe.

The poll is located on the webpage of the Detroit FOX affiliate in the rightmost sidebar about halfway down. Right now, the poll is running 43% yes, 56% no. Go, my mini-horde! You’ll have my eternal (or at least for a few hours) thanks.

ADDENDUM: The poll appears to be gone, replaced by a poll about the Lions asking how many games they’ll win this year. Hope springs eternal, I guess.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

97 replies on “Another idiotic poll: Do you think vaccines are safe?”

A Fox-Affiliate poll we’ll never see:

Do you think (insert vaccine-preventable infectious childhood disease here) is safe for kids to contract or spread to others?

Yes
No

If people are as categorical in lauding 100% safety, then perhaps Fox need a new poll:

Is a parent, who’s child suffers a debilitating adverse reaction to a vaccine after receiving assurances that said vaccine was safe, justified in taking the life of the person that caused said harm?

Since the pathology for many of these adverse reactions are unknown, to claim something to be absolutely safe when the underlying neurochemistry is still not understood smacks of the next generation of flat earth claimants.

That isn’t science. It’s making faith-based claims and calling it science.

Yes = 52%
No = 47%
Maybe the Insolent mob is larger than the Fox Detroit station’s.

Why are these polls always hosted on sites that take forever to load?

In any case, here’s a way of voting early and often.

Open Firefox, multiple tabs, put the URL in each of them.

Vote in the first tab, type in ctrl+shift+DEL to clear your cache. Reload that tab. Move to the second tab, and repeat. This way, you are voting in multiple tabs while the page reloads.

Now at 53% for the science.

If this type of rank manipulation is condoned here, and by inference, necessary, why would anyone believe anything written at ScienceBlogs? It makes SB bloggers look like cheerleaders not scientists.

The science is dead. Long live the science.

In any case, here’s a way of voting early and often.
broken link:

Open Firefox, multiple tabs, put the URL in each of them.

Vote in the first tab, type in ctrl+shift+DEL to clear your cache. Reload that tab. Move to the second tab, and repeat. This way, you are voting in multiple tabs while the page reloads.

Now at 53% for the science.
——————————————————–
Another fine example of “scientist” ethics. Honesty isn’t exactly a virtue by SBMers is it? Rationalizing dishonesty for the good fight?

For science? WTH?

Voted. Now at 60% yes, 39% no (what the heck, are they truncating instead of rounding?).

It makes SB bloggers look like cheerleaders not scientists.

…and the peanut gallery has spoken!

psst, Mr. observant:

As if an Internet poll has any bearing whatsoever on whether vaccines are safe or even on whether people believe vaccines are safe.

the point of crashing internet polls is to show they can be crashed. thus, are an entirely worthless endeavor from an information gathering standpoint.

sad commentary on your intellectual prowess there, but I doubt you’ll even now grasp your mistake.

You’ve made PZ envious, Orac, so he’s decided to join in the fun.

“the point of crashing internet polls is to show they can be crashed. thus, are an entirely worthless endeavor from an information gathering standpoint.”

So then why not vote the other way? Wouldn’t that go just as far, nay farther, in showing how useless they are?

f this type of rank manipulation is condoned here, and by inference, necessary, why would anyone believe anything written at ScienceBlogs? It makes SB bloggers look like cheerleaders not scientists.

No, it’s simply a strategy to show how ridiculous Internet polls are. If you’re a blogger with enough traffic, it is quite an effective strategy as well. Now that PZ has joined the fun, at least I know I’ll be spared the embarrassment if my paltry traffic wasn’t enough to budge the poll numbers much. 🙂

@Punter

The problem is that then the news organizations talk about their unscientific poll as if it has any validity whatsoever. If the poll is crashed to reach the overwhelmingly anti-reality answer, then that gets passed on as if it were some semblance of fact. Better to have spread about a reality-based answer (“Vaccines are safe”…though even that’s a stupid way of phrasing it, since “safe” is a relative term) than something that only exists in the fevered imaginations of the conspiracy-minded (“Vaccines are not safe”).

At any rate, if the people putting up the poll are not going to put in the effort to give even a semblance of rigor to it, then I see no real reason for people to not crash it. As for myself, I would only vote once and not do the cache-clearing multi-voting that others might.

@Punter

I fail to realize how this would invalidate the opinions of those that post for scienceblogs. If this were anything approximating a scientific poll (is there such a thing?) or scientific research, then perhaps your objection might be valid, but no, it is neither of these.

MI Dawn @10,

I see your mistake there. You were misled by the name. Just because they have “news” in their name does not mean they are actually a news station. Whenever you see FOX in their name you know it’s not a news station, it’s a Murdoch propaganda outlet.

So then why not vote the other way?

why?

It was already being crashed the other way when we started.

oh, wait, you didn’t know that, did you?

LOL

what a maroon.

chances are, it will get crashed back the other way if some freeper site takes notice.

Unfortunately, polls of misinformed people can have consequences.

A UK court recently awarded 90,000 pounds to a child who was allegedly injured by the MMR vaccine. Unfortunately, polling of the three-person panel produced a result that ignored the scientifically-supported dissenting view (of one of the three members of the panel) that the boy would have developed in the same manner whether or not he had been vaccinated:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1307095/Family-win-18-year-fight-MMR-damage-son–90-000-payout-concerns-vaccine-surfaced.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16713920

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20447868

Sheesh.

Seventy-four to twenty five for YES. Honestly, how ridiculous. Do you think my rabbits are shedding too much?: Yes, No.
P.S. The answer is yes. Come on over and groom them. I will give you wine and snacks.

new to the blog and I live nowhere near Detroit, but I threw in a yes-77% at the time

What a stupid question! Leaving out the fact that internet polls aren’t even a valid way of finding public opinion (let alone scientific facts), the question is simplistic to the point of being ridiculous.

Anyone who knows the data on vaccines knows that the correct answer (i.e. the answer that conforms to the data) isn’t one of the options.

“Are vaccines safe?” Compared to what? In what way? Using what metric?

Anyone with more than two functional neurons knows that “safe” is a relative condition, not absolute. Something is “safe” relative to something else – it is not “safe” in and of itself.

There are probably more people killed or injured by vaccines in the US each year than are killed or critically injured in guinea pig attacks, so one could argue that guinea pigs are safer than vaccines. However, not everybody is exposed to guinea pigs, so the number of deaths might not reflect the true risk from homicidal guinea pigs.

On the other hand, we have mountains of data showing that vaccines are orders of magnitude safer than the diseases they are meant to prevent. In that sense, vaccines are safe.

As far as I know, there is no activity – or inactivity – that is completely, 100% safe. In that sense, vaccines are not “safe” – and neither is anything else.

A poll like this – one that obviously was already being “crashed” by the vaxophobics – is simply begging to be “crashed” by “our side”. If there are people out there whose opinion of vaccines can be influenced by a nonsense Fox News (or ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, NPR, etc.) internet poll, then we are doing a public service by pointing them in the direction of the data.

Prometheus

79 for, 20 against (including my vote). I’m old enough to have heard how my grandmother’s best friend and her whole family died during a diphtheria epidemic in Wisconsin in the 1880’s — and to have had a childhood friend myself who went from normal to “slow” after measles came through the school — and to have known a lot of people who were crippled from polio, and a couple who died of it.

I also remember the little bottles of merthiolate that moms used to paint all over the open wounds on their kids. (Just looked it up — you can still buy it on Amazon! But the label is in Spanish.) If THAT didn’t cause autism, I have a hard time seeing how the tiny bit in vaccines could.

My two kids are autistic, and it’s never occurred to me to blame vaccines.

@Allan Kellogg
The poll can’t even measure what people think because people who go to that site are not representative of the whole population. It is selective to only people who read Fox website. So yes, the poll is stupid. Whoever made it believes that polling is a legitimate way of finding people’s opinion when it is not.

Well some maybe, but lately they developed them too fast that makes me think that they did not put a lot research in the development of them.

Darn! I think my link to a similar Aussie poll got stuck in the spam filter.

“Do you believe in the benefits of vaccinations?” at “www.tweednews.com.au”

Please also visit this poll (referenced by Andy) in Australia’s anti-vaccination heartland. Currently 24% say no to “Do you believe in the benefits of vaccinations?”

Ah, so I’m working for two overlords today. Very well then. Just popped over to say my my my the Firefox add-ons Cookie Monster and iMacros are quite useful wink wind nudge nudge say no more say no more.

I just voted. 84% Yes, 16% no.
In other news, the Cedillo Appeal from the Omnibus Autism Proceedings has been rejected by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Hopefully, this “MMR-causes-autism” BS will now be over.

AndyD: I didn’t see a poll there, but seeing as the top three stories are about a measles panic it seems a silly question.

@ 21 Punter,

If this type of rank manipulation ridicule is condoned here, and by inference, necessary, why would anyone believe anything written at ScienceBlogs anyplace that promotes these meaningless polls? It makes SB bloggers look like cheerleaders not scientists. It demonstrates that the reality denialists are insignificant.

Internet polls appeal to those of you who deny reality, right up until the point where you have to deal with the reality that reality denialists are not the only ones with internet access. Any psychic would have warned you about that. Maybe your psychic is having fun at your expense.

The crystal ball tells me that this is a good time to go up against Orac and Pharyngula in an internet poll. Go for it. Really!
.

@ 26 Punter,

the point of crashing internet polls is to show they can be crashed. thus, are an entirely worthless endeavor from an information gathering standpoint.

So then why not vote the other way? Wouldn’t that go just as far, nay farther, in showing how useless they are?

Why would anyone pass up the opportunity to ridicule anti-vaccinationists?

Not that these opportunities are rare, but anti-vaccinationists are ridiculous. Therefore, the most appropriate way to deal with anti-vaccinationists is ridicule.
.

If you click on any measles story in the Tweed Daily News the poll is beneath the text.

Very sad story about the death of a child – at 12 years old – from a 1/100000 complication of measles.

Sorry, that’s not clear unless you read the story. Ill at 10 months, blind by 7 yrs old, dead at 12.

Latest on the Tweed Daily News poll
yes: 76%
no: 23%

The percentage of no votes is still rather disheartening.
No doubt the AVN is on it.

Looks like it has been replaced by a poll on how many games the Detroit Lions are going to win, and the lowest possible option is 2 or less. This shows how deluded that Fox affiliate is.

@Don Smith
“I see your mistake there. You were misled by the name. Just because they have “news” in their name does not mean they are actually a news station. Whenever you see FOX in their name you know it’s not a news station, it’s a Murdoch propaganda outlet.”

Absolutely, Don. We should all get our news from credible sources like HuffPo (i.e., Stephen Barrie, ND (“Author, medical researcher, entrepreneur”) Child Autism Epidemic Firmly Linked to Environment (Aug. 30, 2010) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-barrie-nd/child-autism-epidemic-fir_b_696179.html , and David Kirby (“Author/Journalist”) New Study: Hepatitis B Vaccine Triples the Risk of Autism in Infant Boys (Sept. 17, 2009) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/new-study-hepatitis-b-vac_b_289288.html ).

In other news, see THERESA CEDILLO, et ux., Petitioners-Appellants, vs. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Respondent-Appellee, No, 2010-5004, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ( August 27, 2010) http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/10-5004.pdf (affirming judgments of the Special Masters in the Omnibus Vaccine Trials).

As a final FYI: These on-line polls are a measure of (and a way to jack-up the) numbers of people linking to the site. The purpose is to generate numbers to support claims for advertising sales (more people linking to site supposedly means more readers, and so more advertisers should be interested in posting ads on the site — and possibly at an increased rate — and, increased numbers to the site automatically results in increasing the on-line ads that are programed to pop-up on heavily trafficed sites). Accordingly, questions are phrased to generate controversy, as that tends to increase the numbers) rather than asking or seeking any useful information about the supposed subject of the question. And, another consequence is that by voting you essentially guarantee that the question will be the subject of another on-line survey in the future. These folks ain’t dumb, Don. They’ve got you figured out completely and are playing you like a Concert Master pays a well-tuned Grand Piano.

Happy trails.

why are you promoting a poll crash? What the poll is simply hoping to do is to get some idea of what Joe Public thinks about the issue. Not what a bunch of pharma people think. Don’t you want to know what Joe Public thinks? What would it benefit to skew the results? It doesn’t sound very scientific to me to even want to do this. You can play with the results but it really doesn’t benefit anyone. The fact is, people are feeling very mixed about the vaccine schedule/agenda. This should be addressed by doing all that is possible-yes scientifically to study the effects on children, not poll-crashing.

The 2008 Detroit Lions became the only team in NFL history to lose all 16 regular-season games. Ironically, their preseason record had been 4-0. They are only the second team to go winless without a tie (next to the 0–14 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers) since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. They went 2–14 in 2009. The Lions currently hold a 20 game road losing streak, the 4th longest in NFL history.

Having a “2 or less” win option on a Lions poll is like saying your next bypass surgery is going to cost you “$50 or more”. True, yes, but…

@jen

What the poll is simply hoping to do is to get some idea of what Joe Public thinks about the issue.

Uh, jen. No, it isn’t. The purpose of the poll is to get a fluff, unscientific sampling of a highly self-selected population (the viewers/readers of that Fox affiliate). It is not a scientific poll.

It doesn’t sound very scientific to me to even want to do this.

No one claimed that poll-crashing was scientific. What it is, however, is a way to demonstrate the total lack of validity of such internet polls. If this were a real scientific endeavor, then trying to screw with the results would probably not fly (though I could see such attempts being justified as trying to reveal flaws in methodology).

Not what a bunch of pharma people think.

What pharma people? I’m assuming you mean people who are in the employ of pharmaceutical companies? I have no personal financial ties to any pharma company (not that it’s anyone’s business, anyway). I’m sure that there is a good mix of people who read this that also receive no financial incentives from any pharma company, your paranoid conspiracy theories notwithstanding.

jen, you comments have already been addressed. Read Orac’s post #28 and post #29. Punter already brought this up. Online polls are not scientific polls, they do not even tell you what the public thinks. At best they can tell you what the readers of a specific website think but even that is rather questionable as you can see what a couple of websites can do to poll results. The fact that online polls can be so easily manipulated shows how useless they are, and how misleading they can be.

jen:

You have completely missed the point of poll-crashing. It’s not primarily to make “our side” look good, it’s to demolish a falsehood. No internet poll results can be considered anywhere near accurate, but that will not stop the anti-vax liars from using them if it meets their needs for propaganda. If you want a scientific poll to measure Joe Public’s concern, there are a lot of groups that will do this (for an appropriate fee). Of course, this has next to nothing to do with vaccine safety.

I agree with former Canadian PM John Diefenbaker: “Dogs know what to do with polls”.

“Why would anyone pass up the opportunity to ridicule anti-vaccinationists?”

Because by doing that you are only creating more anti-vaccinationists. Perhaps that’s your goal?

@ 67 Punter,

Why would anyone pass up the opportunity to ridicule anti-vaccinationists?

Because by doing that you are only creating more anti-vaccinationists. Perhaps that’s your goal?

That is one way to explain a causal connection between the ridiculous and anti-vaccinationists, but it is much more likely the other way around. Or maybe it is the fluoride in the drinking water that causes anti-vaccinationists. 😉

The crystal ball tells me that this is a good time to go up against Orac and Pharyngula in an internet poll. Go for it. Really!

Does that ridicule mean that a sensible person just traded his sanity for a tin foil hat?

Every time a gong rings, does that mean that another loon just got his Tin Foil Hat Second Class?

Do you really think that ridiculing what is essentially ridiculous will make people more gullible?
.

“That is one way to explain a causal connection between the ridiculous and anti-vaccinationists, but it is much more likely the other way around. Or maybe it is the fluoride in the drinking water that causes anti-vaccinationists. 😉

The crystal ball tells me that this is a good time to go up against Orac and Pharyngula in an internet poll. Go for it. Really!

Does that ridicule mean that a sensible person just traded his sanity for a tin foil hat?

Every time a gong rings, does that mean that another loon just got his Tin Foil Hat Second Class?

Do you really think that ridiculing what is essentially ridiculous will make people more gullible?”

I really have no idea what you are getting all frothy at the mouth about. You seem to have a very black/white view of the world. In my experience, ridicule hasn’t really been all that effective a form of communication. Seems to be the only way you know how to communicate however, so I’m outta here.

@ 62 jen,

why are you promoting a poll crash? What the poll is simply hoping to do is to get some idea of what Joe Public thinks about the issue.

Internet polls are just a way for people to try to manipulate data to say what they want it to say.

Internet polls have nothing to do with what the general public thinks.

There is no validity to internet polls.

Anyone telling you internet polls are valid is an idiot, a liar, or maybe even both.
.

all I will end by saying is that Punter is most appropriately named.

what a maroon.

For Punter, a quote from HL Mencken that Martin Gardner was fond of:

“One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.”

In my experience, ridicule hasn’t really been all that effective a form of communication. Seems to be the only way you know how to communicate however, so I’m outta here.

Well, you really aren’t looking so great from the communication standpoint. You’ve been trying to communicate that we should respect the integrity of an internet poll, and every time we try to point out that an internet poll has no integrity you absolutely fail to communicate any reason we should believe that an internet poll does, indeed, have integrity.

I will give the “you shouldn’t crash the poll!!” people one, and exactly one point. If it were possible, it would be far preferable to show how ridiculous and point-free the polls are by selecting a nonsense answer. If people looked at the results of an online poll and saw that 10% said “Yes,” 10% said “No,” and 80% said “Three ducks in a fountain! Narf Narf!” they’d throw up their hands and say “Geez Louise, it’s impossible to get any real information from these polls, when it’s so easy for someone to tamper with them!” which is exactly true and exactly what we want people to realize.

But as the situation stands, few polls give the option to write in an answer, so the choices we have amount to:

1) Crash the polls to support the answer that science supports;
2) Let the polls be crashed to support the pseudoscience answer.*

No one so far has communicated a compelling argument for why 2) would be the superior choice.

* Anti-vaxxers make death threats against those they perceive as enemies. They try to “out” people who disagree with them on message boards, so they can register phony complaints with that person’s employer and try to get that person fired. They even commit “blood libel“, portraying their enemies as feasting on babies. If you think they would balk for one moment at tampering with the non-existent integrity of an internet poll, I doubt sense could ever get through to you.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: