Several major media outlets were forced to retract stories after a study concerning Americans’ views on same-sex marriage was shown to be a fraud.
Donald Green, a political science professor at Columbia University, and Michael LaCour, a graduate student at UCLA, published a study in the Science journal late last year entitled When Contact Changes Minds: An Experiment on Transmission of Support for Gay Equality.
The premise of the study was that voters’ views on same-sex marriage could be changed rapidly with the use of canvassers going door-to-door.
The problem was that all the data was fabricated. The fraud was discovered by two UC Berkley graduate students, David Broockman and Josh Kalla, who sought to do an extension of the study.
Two red flags soon popped up as they began their work: 1) the response rates that the supposed canvassers received was much higher than in other studies; and, 2) the answers the canvassers supposedly received were too consistent.
When the two tried to launch a pilot study based off the original study’s findings, their concerns were further validated.
As reported by Vox, under the title The Biggest Political Science Study of Last Year Was a Complete Fraud:
Thinking that maybe LaCour and Green’s survey firm was just unusually good, Broockman and Kalla contacted it and asked to speak to the staffer said to be responsible. The firm said it had never heard of the project, never had an employee by that name, and didn’t even have the capabilities to carry out a study along the lines of the one LaCour and Green described.
The two also contacted Green and enlisted the additional help of a Yale professor, but ended up finding even more irregularities in the study.
When Green contacted his co-author LaCour’s adviser at UCLA in order to obtain the raw data, he learned that none existed.
Green has since asked the Science journal to retract the article. LaCour, who was to become an assistant professor at Princeton, no longer lists the position on his website.
In addition to Vox, the following news outlets have updated their stories to notify their readers that the study was a fraud: The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. You can read their retractions here.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth