Saturday, June 2, 2007

October Surprise

So far, we've explored the fact that, based upon the overall survey of Protestants, the Lifeway report includes with regard to Southern Baptists solely the category (pastors) most likely to yield the desired high number of PPL-endorsers. As a result, the one question that the report cannot answer is "What do Southern Baptists believe about PPL?" We've also explored the evidence that Lifeway Research conducted this research amidst exclusive coordination with pro-PPL bloggers—that, honest, honorable, and faithful people that they are notwithstanding, the folks at Lifeway Research appear to have more friendly connections with pro-PPL than anti-PPL folks in the SBC. The first factor could easily have been remedied by taking some more time and incorporating an actual survey of Southern Baptists—an unlimited general survey of Southern Baptist pastors and laity alike. But Lifeway Research did not take additional time. The time of publication is also an important component of factor two, since coordination of the report's release with pro-PPL bloggers appears to have been a part of the communication between Lifeway Research and bloggers. What is the timing of the report? On the eve of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in San Antonio. I can imagine an innocent, non-partisan reason for this timing: The report is going to generate a lot more interest if released right now as opposed to September. If Lifeway Research wants to grab headlines and generate interest in their work, then releasing this report at this particular time is just the way to do it. That's one reason why an honest researcher might have chosen to release this report on the eve of the convention. Of course, for the political machine that has been at work throughout the past year, the timing could not have been better if made-to-order. As for my thoughts, the presidential elections of 2000 & 2004 come to mind. Networks came under fire for the practice of using exit polls to declare (wrongly) the results of the presidential election in key states while voting was still underway on the West Coast. For some reason, exit poll errors seem to occur in the favor of Democrats. The more conspiracy-minded among us suggest a concerted effort by networks and pollsters to skew the election. Not me. I acknowledge that the exit polls have recently tended to err in favor of Democrats when they err, but the reasons are likely related either to subtle, inadvertent bias on the part of the researchers or to the fact that human behavior and opinion are difficult to survey with great precision. Also, to borrow from our physicist friends, one must consider the observer effect—when you point a camera at it, it changes. People have this strange habit of sometimes saying what they believe will make a pollster approve of them as people. These are explanations more likely than deliberate political conspiracy, in my opinion. Nevertheless, even though I do not believe that the networks and Voter News Service are engaged in a political conspiracy, I support the severe limitation of the use of exit polls during national elections. Why?

  1. Because the polls themselves affect the outcome of the election when results are released before voting is complete.
  2. When the stakes are that high, the inaccuracies of the method cease to become an academic footnote and become very, very important. The egg on the networks' faces amply demonstrates that such polls are not reliable enough to be allowed to play such an important role.
And that's not to mention the partisan political polls ordered by and coordinated with a particular candidate's campaign. Of course, the American people have grown suspicious of such partisan hack polls released on the eve of an election. In the case of the Lifeway Research PPL Report, we have a poll regarding a very important question released just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. It is released at a time when it is inevitable that Southern Baptists will interpret the report to speak to the beliefs of Southern Baptists as a whole, when it does not even purport to answer that question. Just like the polls mentioned above, this report is likely to influence the results of the SBC meeting. This report, due to the inadequacies mention in the preceding posts, is even less reliable than the infamous exit polls. Releasing this report with these deficiencies at this particular time is reckless at best.

27 comments:

martyduren said...

You need to get more sleep, Bart. Each post is a farther reach with more speculation than the one before it.

I'm sorry that you feel so threatened by this. I am probably much closer to you on the issue of ppl than I am to Dwight McKissic or Alan Cross and, yet, I feel not one breeze of a threat.

Your speculation as to the timing is the same as 95% of what you have written on this issue--speculation based on your preconceptions and nothing else. Your irrational fear is leading you to irrational charges, first against Lifeway in general, then the research dept, then Ed Stetzer and now, ostensibly, the VPs.

Here's an idea: Maybe they released the report because it was finished and ready. If this report had been delayed until a month after the convention, then the outcry from some would have been, "Why wasn't this released in advance of the convention for [enter convoluted reason here]?"

Bart, earlier this week I did a post with a questionable approach. You took me to task over it, leading me to an edited version. Your questionable questioning is most certainly in the same league as my "cheap shot."

In a recent comment thread here, you said you were concerned only with the report. That is patently untrue: you are concerned with biased people and have stated so repeatedly.

I've attempted to temper this; please forgive me if is still coming across as harsh. That is not my intent.

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

Who do you believe was on the grassy knoll?

:)

I like you a great deal, but this is way, way over the top.

Bart Barber said...

Marty,

All people are biased. When I show bias at Lifeway Research, I am not attempting to insult anyone—I am merely attempting to describe them.

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

A few weeks ago, I was (on the grassy knoll, that is).

Anonymous said...

Bart- at least you've come right out and said it: you consider LifeWay Reseach dishonest and reckless. And this after calling them and expressing appreciation for what they're doing.

Bart Barber said...

I do appreciate what they are doing. I hadn't seen this report at that time. I did call the publication of this report reckless. I did not call them dishonest. Indeed, I specifically said that I was not calling them dishonest.

martyduren said...

Bart-
What appears is that you wish they were biased in your favor, while insinuating bias against your position.

What is your call for a new survey from an external, professional, unbiased group except a hope that the results would be more reflective of your opinion, thereby demonstrating your own bias?

Bart Barber said...

Marty,

Apparently, the poll I suggest would be the first one ever to address what all Southern Baptists (laity included) believe about the issue.

Or do you believe that the opinions of laypeople don't matter?

How about this as a compromise? Let's let Lifeway Research do a new poll, but this time, let them do one that actually addresses the question at hand. Let us actually poll Southern Baptists—of all stripes—according to an instrument worked out to the satisfaction of people on all sides of the issue. And any off-the-record coordination can take place with bloggers of all stripes. I would find that arrangement acceptable. You?

The Milkman said...

Ya, Bart. Shame on you. You guys from NE Arkansas are so suspicious. Everyone knows that politicians (Rep., Dem., SBC) don't worry about the timing of the release of front-page, headline news.

Furthermore, I am quite certain that our denominational entities and employees don't have much else going on in June. Slow time of year; not much news these days.

Benjamin S. Cole said...

There is an old dictum in politics:

When the polling doesn't turn out in your favor...call for more polling.

Bart, I'm surprised at you.

I would have thought a sober scholar such as you would have maintained a consistent perspective.

Rather than calling for more polling by Lifeway, why aren't you calling for more vigorous instruction regarding the "biblical" view on these issues? Why aren't you calling for more intense exegetical and hermeneutical training at Southern Baptist seminaries?

Does it trouble you that twenty-eight years into the Conservative Resurgence any poll could give reason to believe that Southern Baptists have fallen so far in our biblical literacy?

This poll should be a challenge for you and your kind to redouble efforts to train our pastors the "right way." It should be a clarion call to greater doctrinal instruction regarding the Holy Spirit and his works so that our Southern Baptist pastors don't fall prey to predatory pentecostalism.

Rather than call for more polls, or try to debunk the polls that have been produced, why don't you do something constructive to advance your view?

Leave all the destruction stuff to me. It suits my bellicose nature more than it does your genteel and courteous character.

BSC

Bart Barber said...

Marty,

As far as the "Why wasn't this released in advance of the convention..." concern, I agree entirely that Lifeway Research was vulnerable to this sort of criticism if they didn't get something published prior to the annual meeting.

I'll bet they even heard some of that in their discussions with pro-PPL bloggers along the way.

Bart Barber said...

Ben,

It's simply spending all this time around you lately, I guess.

martyduren said...

Bart-
Just how many cups of coffee have you had this AM??

As to your call for another poll: I didn't call for another poll when the Calvinism stats were released and I didn't call for another poll when the "What do you think about Southern Baptists" poll was released. I'll pass.

Bart Barber said...

OK, Marty, so you aren't interested in a compromise. Duly noted.

BTW, I actually have never been one to drink coffee. Once upon a time, I did have a sinister Mt. Dew habit, but now I stick with mostly bottled water along with milk and juice.

Bart Barber said...

To all:

Please remember that I am working through a series of posts. Don't miss the last one (which will probably hit sometime tomorrow).

Jerry Corbaley said...

Whoa! "Dog pile on Bart!"

Hey guys, lighten up.

While your rhetoric is controlled and unusually polite, give a brother a chance to think things through. Your pace is equivalent to a dogpile. On Saturday morning you are all three nipping at his heels?

When was the last time that happened?

You are making the most of the moment. I guess you will make the most of the week.

I have been recently surprised by the Lifeway polling results. It takes some time to digest such a radical change in perception. Sometimes nothing will help us accept hard news except time.

Your "light-hearted" verbal jabs are not.

By the way, what if Bart is right? You are providing quotes for an encyclopedia of blog articles.

Alan Cross said...

Marty,

What I love out our relationship is that even though we are not in full agreement on this issue, it does not affect our ability to work together because it is neither a test of fellowship nor cooperation for either of us. As for me, I'd rather focus on Jesus.

Bart,

I am sure that you were equally upset about the timing of the report of the IMB BoT Ad Hoc committee on glossolalia. Since it took them well over a year to craft that simple report and they released it at the last board meeting before the Convention and did not even pass it out to trustees ahead of time, I am sure that you wrote a post calling out their bias. Could you please point me to it? Or will you ignore my question here again like you have in previous posts?

Here are the facts, despite your protestations: This poll is significant in its implications because it clearly shows that you and your co-horts are wrong in your assessment of your majority. There are many more continuationists than you ever dreamed in SBC life. And, that is quite upsetting to you so you've been writing ad nauseum, calling it biased and terribly flawed.

You Bart, seem to be losing objectivity. Why can't you just accept that there are many, many people in the SBC who disagree with you on this and that we should allow for different opinions on this issue? Why can't you just admit that the previous IMB policies were sufficient and that while regulating behavior that can be divisive, we should not regulate people in their beliefs and private practices? Why can't we just cooperate with each other instead of expecting complete uniformity?

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

You have a good point. I'm sure that timing was a significant consideration in the IMB's deliberations. I hadn't looked at it that way. I'm willing to conceded that both this report and that action were equally partisan.

Bart Barber said...

"to concede" not "to conceded"

Bart Barber said...

Alan,

Presuming that is what you were arguing...that they are both equally partisan?

joerstewart said...

I have a simple question and ask for some forthrightness here. Which bloggers have talked to Lifeway Researchers?

martyduren said...

Bart-
That dog won't hunt. You cannot invent the ground rules of a game that you want to play and then call me uncooperative for not signing up.

I don't buy into your thesis, therefore, I won't buy into your solution.

volfan007 said...

i would like to hear an answer to joe's question as well. who are the bloggers that the lifeway research team seems to be so in tune with?

david

martyduren said...

David-
As a result of my blogging, I have friends everywhere. But amazingly, not a single one of them will ever admit to it.

You'll just have to guess where and who they are.

BTW, we have this little thing called the First Amendment and, get this, even blogger sources are protected. At least mine are.

Alan Cross said...

Bart,

It is your argument, not mine. Since you said that the Lifeway Report was partisian, I asked if you thought the IMB trustees were as well, considering their timing and actions in May. Thank you for admitting that they were and being consistent. If you believe that as vociferously as you believe this about Lifeway, perhaps you will join us in feeling that they are biased and have not represented the whole SBC, but only a portion. Perhaps you will do some investigation into that situation as well and provided us with some sincerely desired answers to long asked questions.

As far as Lifeway is concerned, I said nothing about what I thought concerning their partisianship. I have no reason to think that they fudged the numbers or the research. They are not stupid people and it seems that any duplicity on their part would be pretty easy to detect and they would be out of a job if your accusations are proven true. This is your blog and your argument. I am just responding to your statements.

Thanks for answering my question. At least we have established that you now question the timing of the release of the IMB BoT report.

CB Scott said...

I think Jerry Corbaley is right. Do not dogpile Bart. Dogpile Jerry. After all, he deserves it:-)

cb

Paul said...

"When I show bias at Lifeway Research, I am not attempting to insult anyone—I am merely attempting to describe them."

With all due respect that sounds like one of the most naive statements I've read in a long, long time. And I don't generally consider you naive, Bart.

[*Disclaimer: LifeWay has never contacted me personally about anything other than an appeal to be trained in FAITH.]