A BBC commissioned popularity contest

I have to admit that the perceived value of – and financial justification for – a superficial poll recently carried out on behalf of the BBC World Service escapes this writer completely. Nevertheless, the BBC saw fit to promote its results on the BBC News website as though they were of some significance.  

Visitors to the UK page of the website could ponder the question Why has the UK gone up in people’s estimations? and those reading the Europe or Middle East pages would learn that “Germany most popular country in the world“. Except the headline writer got it wrong: those polled were not asked which country they liked best, but whether they perceived a country’s “influence in the world” as being generally positive or negative. 

Neither of those articles bothers readers too much with the survey’s methodology. To learn more about that, we have to the pollster’s website where we see that the BBC’s statement that “more than 26,000 people were surveyed internationally for the poll” in fact means that people were polled in just twenty-five countries. 

“In total 26,299 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between December 10, 2012 and April 9, 2013.”

We also learn that those polled were only asked for their opinions on sixteen countries and the European Union. Nobody asked them for their opinions on the positive or negative global influence of – for example – Sudan, Syria or Somalia and we will never know if in fact New Zealand is actually the “most popular country in the world”.  

Question wording

The BBC article states:

“Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran came out worst in terms of how they are viewed globally.”

Given that among the countries in which people were polled we find the country deemed the most antisemitic in Europe along with Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, it would be very surprising if Israel did not come out badly in this particular pageant. 

Israel poll

Obviously, no meaningful conclusions whatsoever can be drawn from this BBC World Service  exercise, but what would make it more interesting would be to find out how many of the poll’s responders define themselves as regular consumers of BBC content. 

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