In this second published result of the “1 Year After Bin Laden” Poll, I decided to focus on a question that is somewhat relevant to the current debate in the media following recent events in Libya.
On May 2, 2011, several hundred respondents answered a question with regards to what would be the “Chief Consequence of Bin Laden’s death?”.
Two of the potential responses provided for what might happen in the wake of Bin Laden’s death were:
- “AQ Central plots against the U.S. and its allies increase substantially” – of which 12 votes were cast (4th highest response) and more than 20% of Private Sector voters and a little more than 5% of government voters selected.
- “AQ Central plots against the U.S. and its allies decrease substantially” – of which 7 votes were cast from a mix of professional backgrounds.
To examine the efficacy of the crowdsourcing prediction generated on May 2, 2011, I did an assessment with the “1 Year Post Bin Laden” poll executed on May 2, 2012 asking:
“Since Usama Bin Laden’s death, have al Qaeda Central directed plots against the U.S. and its allies increased or decreased?”
In total, 206 people answered this question and the majority of respondents (71%) stated that al Qaeda Central plots against the U.S. had decreased over the past year.
Here are the results in a chart broken down by professional groups. Below this chart is the breakdown of votes per demographic group and percentage of each. Note, each professional group depicted in the first chart has a different number of total votes. For example, there were 30 ‘Private Sector’ voters but only 4 ‘Media and Journalism’ voters so the percentages in the chart will fluctuate greatly with each vote in those professional groups with low cell counts.
For professional groups, here’s what I found to be interesting results:
- ‘Government-Contractors’ and ‘Government – Non-Military’ were more likely than average to think that plots increased over the past year while ‘Government-Military’ were more likely than average to think that plots had decreased over the past year.
- ‘Private Sector’ voters were less likely than average to think that plots increased over the past year, yet ‘Private Sector’ voters immediately following Bin Laden’s death were the most likely to select that ‘AQ plots will increase’.
After building the professional group charts, I went through and tabulated the raw vote and percentages for all demographic factors to include professional group, education level, preferred information source and residency. This produced the most interesting results. Below is a chart and I highlighted particular lines of interest in different colors. Those lines in green represent groups that were less likely than average to believe that AQ plots had increased over the past year. Those lines in yellow represent groups that were more likely than average to believe that AQ plots had increased. Overall, here is what I found interesting and I’d like to hear what readers think about these results.
- Those that prefer getting their information on al Qaeda from ‘Social Media’ and ‘Television’ were far more likely to believe AQ Central plots against the U.S. had increased since Bin Laden’s death. Meanwhile, those reading ‘Academic Publications’ and ‘Newspapers’ were less likely than average to believe AQ plots had increased after Bin Laden’s death. Assuming the crowd vote of 70% against is correct, this may suggest that social media and television create an amplification effect making every individual attack seem like many attacks. A common argument about the 9/11 attacks and cable TV news was that the constant replaying of the 9/11 attacks resulted in the public believing terrorism was more pervasive than it actually was. Viewers watching endless replays of the attacks began to subconsciously believe there were more threats than there actually were. I personally feel this same effect from social media where Twitter, Blogs and newsfeeds create circular, redundant reporting that makes it difficult to determine the severity and frequency of attacks and true strength of threats. We’ve also seen this with domestic extremism in the States. Essentially, if one looks for and reads about terror attacks all day, they’ll find a lot of threats – aka “Threat Myopia”. Likewise, I wonder if in depth research findings from academic publications and the broader perspective of newspapers has the reverse effect on the information consumer. All just theories but an interesting result form the survey data.
- Strangely, those with at least 2 years living outside the U.S. and E.U. were slightly more likely to believe that AQ plots had increased. I would have expected the reverse, but the difference is very slight and only slightly above the average of all voters.