March 11, 2005
If You Can't Trust a Poll
Everyone reads reports about surveys and political polls as if they were gospel, but what if the pollster is taking liberties with the data? An indictment returned in the District of Connecticut presents that very scenario involving DataUSA Inc . (now called ViewPointUSA Inc.), which has been charged along with its owner (Tracy Costin) and a manger (Darryl Hylton) with conspiracy and wire fraud for providing political and business clients with falsified data. The indictment alleges that employees were told to speak with cats and dogs for information. The company's website (www.datausainc.com) has the following statement: "DataUSA upheld the highest standards in data collection as demonstrated in the excellence of our data. DataUSA's predictions of voting behavior and consumer behavior routinely reflected to be within 1% to 2% of actual behavior. We are proud of the quality data collected and want to thank you for teaming with DataUSA and for your support over the years."
A press release by the U.S. Attorney described the allegations:
According to the Indictment, DATAUSA INC. (“DataUSA”) conducts surveys and political polls for numerous clients throughout the United States. The surveys or polls are conducted through the use of computers and telephones. COSTIN, the owner and director of operations for DataUSA, was charged with conspiracy to engage and engaging in a wire fraud scheme to defraud clients of DataUSA by falsifying and fabricating survey results. According to the Indictment, both COSTIN and HYLTON, a DataUSA manager, and others not named in the indictment, engaged in a scheme to defraud by unilaterally instructing DataUSA employees to alter survey data and to fabricate surveys and otherwise falsify their contents in order to meet job quotas and deadlines. The Indictment charges the defendants with falsifying survey data by instructing employees to alter the gender and political affiliation of the interviewees. In addition, the Indictment also charges the defendants with falsifying survey results by altering data on survey responses originally taken by DataUSA employees after the surveys were completed.
Maybe some of the pollsters who predicted a Kerry victory finally have someone else to blame -- dogs are notoriously liberal. (ph)
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