More on the Generation Rescue poll

Yesterday, I did a deconstruction of Generation Rescue’s dubious “study” (in reality an automated telephone poll) that claims to show that vaccines increase the rate of autism and other “neurologic diseases.”

Now skeptical blogger extraordinaire Prometheus has posted his own excellent deconstruction at his blog A Photon in the Darkness.

I said it before, if I were J. B. Handley, I’d want my money back.


  1. #1 Prometheus
    June 29, 2007


    Thanks for the plug!

    One thing that I haven’t been able to confirm – and haven’t wanted to believe – is that the simplistic question list on the GR website is actually all there is to the survey.

    There weren’t any follow-up calls, no in-depth questionaire, no demographic data collected?

    I can’t believe that a reputable market research company would do a survey that lame, but I suppose it is possible.

    If this is all there is to the survey, then GR did not get good value for their money.

    Actually, even if there is more to the survey, GR did not get good value for their money.

    Even if it only cost them a dollar.


  2. #2 Orac
    June 29, 2007

    I believe that really is all there is to the questionnaire. If you read the Wikipedia entry on SurveyUSA, it describes a company that is known for its automated phone polls. It’s also primarily a political polling company; so it doesn’t appear to have the expertise to design worthwhile health polls.

  3. #3 Joseph
    June 29, 2007

    In all of the analyses I do not believe the most significant flaw of the questionnaire has been addressed. If you look in the PDF, they say they have a short intro that reads as follows:

    “This is SurveyUSA calling Sonoma County parents with a private, confidental survey about vaccinations and children’s health…”

    Clearly, after this introduction is when most people would decide to hang up or continue. It is reasonable to suppose that parents of autistic children who believe vaccines cause autism would almost certainly not hang up. Parents with unvaccinated autistic children (i.e. the Not Mercury’s of the world), although necessarily less numerous if you do the math, would also be interested.

    This hypothesis neatly explains the really high rates of autism found by the poll.

    The poll could be improved by not mentioning vaccines in the intro. I told Handley he should discuss the questionnaire with others beforehand if he wanted to be taken seriously. As it is, he just made an ass of himself.

  4. #4 HCN
    June 29, 2007

    Thank you Joseph, for telling us the introduction (I’m sorry, I couldn’t be bothered).

    During election times I’ve received some of these kinds of surveys being read off by real people. The moment I realize that it is a political poll with any kind of slant I immediately stop cooperating. Actually, one of the last times I did not cooperate by not telling them how I felt from numbers “1 to 5”, but by telling htem “I don’t know, because I do not have enough information to form an opinion”.

    This sounds like it was a bloated self-selected survey, which is like all self-selected surveys: WORTHLESS!

  5. #5 Prometheus
    June 29, 2007

    You know, there may be a thousand different reasons why the GR survey results are baloney, but the truly important message to get out is that they are baloney (meaning no disrespect to the luncheon meat).

    Multiple different sources, looking at millions of kids (e.g. the USDE data) show that the prevalence of autism in the 4 – 17 year age range is no more than 0.65% – and the GR survey gets 4.7%!

    That’s all you really need to know. The survey did not get a representative sample and so no meaningful conclusions can be drawn from that data.

    Actually, there is one conclusion you can make: the survey results are meaningless.

    I note that Rep. Maloney has already started to beat the drum to get a study done comparing autism rates in vaccinated vs unvaccinated children. And, not surprisingly, she’s using this baloney survey to prop up her demand.

    Personally, I’d welcome such a study – if it were done by a real research team (i.e. not Dan Olmsted or SafeMinds) and if the chelationistas would promise that, if the results show no connection, they would find something else to blame autism on.

    However, I think we all know that will never happen. The only study the chelationistas will believe is the one that shows there is a connection between vaccines and autism. Any other result would have to be the result of bias, corruption and government cover-up.

    So, why bother? Why spend millions of dollars to do a study that won’t be believed by the only people who want it done?


  6. #6 Joseph
    June 30, 2007

    It’s interesting also that Brand Handley has not addressed the criticism about the unusually high rates of autism. I don’t believe he will. It’s not possible to do that without undermining the methodology of the survey.

    And it’s probably true that if the obvious biases were removed from the questionnaire, you would need to survey ten times more kids or something to get some significant numbers. And that would be very expensive. I don’t see this survey being followed up on given that the results of the first one are so underwhelming.

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