ORB vs. IFHS in U.S. Media

February 1, 2008

On January 28th, the British polling firm Opinion Research Business (ORB) released an update (via Deltoid) of their previous study estimating violent deaths in post invasion Iraq. The update claims to confirm the previous findings, that about one million Iraqis have died violently following the U.S.-British invasion.

Today, about 3 days later, there are 91 hits on Google News for the combination “opinion research business”+iraq (counting duplicates). The one major mainstream U.S. outlet among the 91 is Reuters. At the same time, searching for articles covering the three weeks old release of the IFHS study shows 295 hits (using the combination iraq+”new england journal of medicine”+151000 OR 150000, and counting duplicates), with all the major mainstream U.S. new outlets represented (The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, CBS, USA Today).

Another matter: There is much of interest in the ORB study. Detailed tables give various breakdown statistics: 17% of households surveyed experienced at least one violent death; in Baghdad, that proportion is 36%; of the violent deaths 40% were by gunshot. It would be interesting to compare (in a different post) some of the data to what is available in the IFHS.

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2 Responses to “ORB vs. IFHS in U.S. Media”

  1. dissident93 Says:

    Just came across this. Remember that ORB’s poll isn’t peer-reviewed science, whereas IFHS is.

    You might also want to do the Google News comparison between IFHS and Lancet 2006.

  2. yoramgat Says:

    dissident93, welcome.

    Remember that ORB’s poll isn’t peer-reviewed science, whereas IFHS is.

    I don’t think a factor like this usually makes a difference in the attention a survey gets. The ORB is apparently a well-established opinion-surveying company, and establishments such as those are usually a-priori presumed reliable in the mainstream media.

    As for the actual reliability of the IFHS and the ORB poll: In general, I am not a big fan of using “peer-review” as a standard for the quality of scientific work (it is probably better than nothing, but it is very problematic) – see here, and other posts on this blog on the matter.

    Specifically, I have examined the IFHS study in some detail and found it quite weak – I have several posts on this matter which you can find by clicking on the “Iraq mortality” category link. I would not be surprised if the ORB poll has problems of its own (if I remember correctly, for example, their calculation of the CI was mistaken, having ignored the effects of clustering), but I would not assume a-priori that it is less reliable than the IFHS.

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