Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Analyst questions reliability of IRI survey in Cuba

"The International Republican Institute has come up with a "new" poll. The
following article posted by Cuba-L in 2007 says all you need to know about
IRI polls in Cuba."


11/26/07 - Cuba-L Analysis - (Albuquerque) - What a Secret Poll by a
Perfectly `"Objective" U.S. Front Organization Reveals about Cuba

By Robert Sandels

According to the International Republican Institute (IRI), Cubans do

not like their government even more than Americans do not like theirs.

Seventy-nine percent of Cubans secretly interviewed doubted that their

government could resolve the problems they thought most important.

Looking closer at the results, we find that those 79% doubted the Cuban

government could resolve the problem of "lack of freedoms, political

system." But looking even closer, only 18.2% of respondents thought lack

of freedoms and the political system was the most important problem facing


The IRI survey questioned 584 Cubans without their knowing it. The

survey (conversations? chats?) was conducted between Sept. 5 and Oct. 4,

2007. "The survey was conducted in 14 out of the 15 Cuban provinces." This

is an unusual statement since Cuba has 14 provinces and not 15! [1] Those

administering the survey engaged Cubans in conversation to elicit their

opinions without identifying themselves as pollsters. The pollsters were

from third-party countries, we are told.

"They would approach individuals who met certain characteristics [not

listed in the IRI's report], and then they would try to strike up a

conversation with them," said Shawn Sullivan, IRI regional program director

for Latin America, in a non-secret interview with Alison Stewart of National

Public Radio (NPR).[2] [Mr Sullivan's background: Special Assistant in the

Office of Legislative Affairs at U.S. Department of Defense, specializing in

Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was Senior Field Representative for the

Bush/Cheney 2004 presidential campaign in New Mexico. He also has worked as

acting Executive Director of the New Mexico Republican party. Sullivan

graduated with an MS in "Latin American studies" from the University of New

Mexico in 1995].[3]

Here is one of the questions the conversationalists from IRI somehow

managed to ask 584 unwitting Cubans without sounding like pollsters:

"When you think about economic changes that might transform the current

system into a market economy - with economic freedoms, private property and

the possibility of Cubans having their own businesses - do you believe that

these changes would improve, worsen or have no effect on your daily


A note about reliability

This and other anomalies lead one to question whether the IRI poll is

reliable - or even a poll. Applying professional polling guidelines to what

little was made public about it, the poll gets a grade of "F" (18.7%).

The Code of Professional Ethics and Practices of the American

Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) lists eight standards of

disclosure, of which the poll meets one and perhaps part of another.

Among its failings, the IRI did not publish the exact wording of the

questions asked, the context in which they were framed, the sampling method

used to select respondents, or the response rates measured by AAPOR standard


The AAPOR code also requires pollsters to "provide all persons selected

for inclusion with a description of the survey sufficient to permit them to

make an informed and free decision about their participation."[5] This

alone would seem to disqualify the IRI exercise as a public opinion poll.

(MEMO TO IRI: Next time just say it's chatter, a confabulation, gossip,

blather, a chinwag or a bull session.)

A guide for the perplexed

To help the reader understand the subtleties of the NPR interview,

Cuba-L Direct has taken the liberty of deconstructing it.

Q. How was the poll administered?

A. By striking up conversations with Cubans in the street.

Q. Who chose the Cubans to chat with?

A. Unidentified people from unidentified countries.

Q. How were the respondents chosen?

A. By certain characteristics.

Q. What safeguards were in place to insure statistical reliability?

A. That's part of the secret.

Q. What instructions did the IRI give the third-country persons for

conducting these secret conversations with Cubans?

A. Try to do the best you can.

Q. What is the best way for an IRI regional program director for Latin

America to deflect questions such as the previous one?

A. Change the subject. Point out how fearful Cubans are about talking to

strangers. That's communism for you.

Q. Rate the quality of Alison Stewart's questions.

A. Fair or poor: 100%. Example: Although chickens were not interviewed in

the survey, Stewart notes that Cubans have them in their houses, and that

signs saying "viva Fidel" are freshly painted. (MEMO TO US POLICYMAKERS: In

Cuba, money that should go to buying chickens goes to buying fresh paint.

Send out talking point.)

Q. Does the IRI have an anti-Castro agenda?

A. Certainly not. The IRI just wants to provide US policymakers with

information they can use "to push for a peaceful democratic transition." So

you can see the IRI is only interested in chatting with Cubans.

Our own secret poll

Cuba-L Direct conducted its own secret interview with an unknowing IRI

representative. To overcome the IRI's natural fear of the public, our

unnamed interviewer, using certain characteristics, struck up a casual

conversation with an IRI employee found wandering the streets of Vilnius,


Q. Hi there. How are you? I am a tourist and not a pollster from Cuba-L

Direct in the United States, so could you tell me what the IRI is, who funds

it, who runs it and what you think of it? Just chatting you know.

A. According to 100% of the secretly interviewed employee, the IRI has been

covertly, though clumsily involved in assisting the US government in regime

change in places like Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq and Venezuela. The IRI is a

component of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its

democracy-promotion strategy.

"It is funded by the United States Agency for International Development

(USAID) and the US Information Agency (USIA) - they say," the employee


NED and its dependencies had to be invented in the 1980s because

congressional investigations in the 1970s showed the hand of the CIA in

covert operations at home and abroad. President Ronald Reagan privatized

democratizing operations starting in 1983. "These operations have shown a

steady profit ever since," said the respondent, "while they made no money at

all before 1983."

The non-partisan IRI board members represent a wide range of similar

people, such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), L. Paul Bremer, III, former

proconsul in Iraq and Brent Scowcroft, former assistant to President George

H.W. Bush for National Security Affairs.

"Except for such operations as providing support for opposition parties

around the world and conducting phony-baloney opinion polls, the IRI is

solely interested in seeing that other countries have just as good a

government as the United States has," said 79% of the employee to 18.2% of

the question.


[1] International Republican Institute, press release, Vilnius, Lithuania,

10/19/07. .

[2] Interview, NPR, 11/20/07.


[3] and

[4] Ibid. . Asked what

was the current Cuban government's ability to solve specific problems, large

majorities answered "no."

[5] American Association for Public Opinion Research, Standards for Minimal

Disclosure. .

Robert Sandels is a writer/analyst for Cuba-L Direct (Albuquerque, New


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