In advance of Brazil’s general election on Oct. 3, 2010, results of recent voter polls have been an integral part of electoral coverage. However, many journalists still have doubts and obstacles to understanding the numbers and translating them into stories that are easily digested by audiences.
“I’ve always felt the need to know a little more about research methods and their peculiarities,” explained a Brazilian journalist who participated in the Knight Center’s second offering of the webinar “Techniques and Tips for Electoral Coverage: How to Understand and Analyze Electoral Polls.” The online seminar was conducted live by journalist José Roberto de Toledo, on Aug. 26.
Brazilians will vote Oct. 3 for the presidency, all 27 governors, and members of the chamber of deputies, senate, and state legislatures.
During the two-hour online seminar, 61 journalists, students, and journalism professors from all regions of Brazil had the chance to learn facts and myths about electoral polls, including details about how they are conducted, the nuances between different research methods used by polling institutes, the concepts of sampling errors, and mistakes often made by journalists in analyzing and reporting the figures. Toledo discussed how to avoid making such mistakes, and the participants asked questions and interacted with him both during and after his presentation.
“I hope the journalists had their doubts clarified and that these seminars will contribute to reducing errors in reporting polls and will help to improve the quality of analysis of the results,” Toledo said.
Toledo, one of the founders of the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (Abraji) and a specialist in Computer-Assisted Reporting (CAR), writes about the elections for the Estado de S. Paulo, where he also blogs about electoral polling.
Participants expressed satisfaction with the format of the webinar and said they would apply the concepts learned.
“I think a journalist should be prepared for all subjects, and I hope to be able to use what I learned soon, whether in political coverage, or in any other reading of polls,” said Daniel Telles, a reporter for the newspaper A TARDE da Bahia.
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was launched in 2002 by Professor Rosental Calmon Alves. Thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has assisted thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, contact the Knight Center’s program manager, Jennifer Potter-Miller at jpottermiller at mail.utexas.edu or +1 512 471-1391.