Fan releases poll on Arkansas football; methodology criticized Print
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Monday, 18 June 2007 15:07
NCAAF Headline News

 LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas football fan commissioned a poll asking Razorbacks supporters if they're satisfied with embattled coach Houston Nutt.
Some public-opinion sampling experts are dissatisfied with the methodology.
``Be very careful overreading this thing,'' said Robert Eisinger, chair of Lewis and Clark College's political science department. ``Sometimes no data are better than bad data.''
Roger Wooley, a longtime Razorbacks fan living near Birmingham, Ala., was hoping to measure public opinion on several topics facing Arkansas' athletic program. He released the poll results Monday at a news conference in downtown Little Rock: 63 percent of those surveyed are either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with Nutt, and 28 percent are either somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
The Razorbacks went 10-4 last season, but Nutt has been under fire after the departures of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain. One fan has filed a taxpayer lawsuit over a nasty e-mail sent by booster Teresa Prewett - a friend of Nutt's family - to Mustain. The suit claims the university didn't investigate it thoroughly enough.
Fans have also used the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act to investigate Nutt's cell phone records.
The survey of 600 Arkansans - 500 of whom were regular viewers of Arkansas sports - by Campaigns and Communications Plus Inc. of Sherwood had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, Wooley said.
Eisinger was one of two public opinion analysts who cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the survey. Adam Berinsky, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned about the order in which questions were asked.
Respondents were first asked about some topics from recent months, such as the infamous e-mail from Prewett to Mustain. Later, respondents were asked their views on the leadership of athletic director Frank Broyles, Chancellor John White and ``the current University of Arkansas football coach.''
Berinsky said asking for approval ratings after several questions about negative topics can be problematic.
``By the end, when you're asking how satisfied are you with the leadership ... you've just basically gotten people to think about negative things and told them negative information,'' Berinsky said.
Wooley stood by the poll, saying he worked with the polling firm to ensure the survey was objective. The firm provided a cover letter saying ``the client specified that all questions be neutral in order not to sway the participants and adversely impact responses.''
The firm said it cannot discuss details about the poll and referred questions back to Wooley.
University of Arkansas athletic department spokesman Kevin Trainor released a statement after the survey was made public.
``It only reaffirms our belief that people all over the state of Arkansas are passionate about the Razorbacks,'' Trainor said. ``We appreciate our fans and value their feedback and support. We are looking forward to another outstanding year of Razorback athletics.''
Wooley, 58, had prepared a statement before the news conference. He called on Arkansas fans to come together after a tumultuous offseason.
``I think a good first step would be for both sides to realize that neither has as strong a public support as they thought,'' Wooley said. ``I am hoping that an objective poll can demonstrate that. How about we acknowledge that there are dedicated Hog fans on both sides, and start seeking a solution?''
The poll included 600 respondents, at least 500 of which had to watch Arkansas sports ``as often as they could,'' according to the cover letter. The overall breakdown on Nutt was as follows: 24 percent very satisfied, 39 percent somewhat satisfied, 13 percent somewhat dissatisfied and 15 percent very dissatisfied.
But whether those results are meaningful is in question. Berinsky said the poll was better than an unscientific Internet poll - he and Eisinger had no major complaints about the survey's sample. But they said some questions were not worded well.

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