Sedalia paper: tee-shirt poll Pharyngulated!

September 1, 2009 • 6:03 am

Thanks to alert reader Bryan, who posted this below the fold yesterday, the Sedalia Democrat (which editorially opposed the ban on the evolution tee shirt) has now published an investigative article on the hijacking of their “was the tee shirt appropriate?” poll.

The Sedalia Democrat’s latest reader’s poll has garnered more than 6,600 votes which is 50 times more than average.

According to Editor Bob Satnan, the poll, which is posted weekly about a news topic at, normally sees about 150 votes.

The poll sought reader’s opinion on a story about Sedalia School District 200 administrators pulling T-shirts worn by the Smith-Cotton High School band after receiving complaints from parents about an “evolution” theme.

The poll titled, “Band T-shirts,” asks readers “Should the Sedalia school district have pulled the Smith-Cotton High School band T-shirts?” Three percent of voters chose, “Yes, the evolution image was inappropriate” and 97 percent opted for, “No, critics and the district are overreacting.”

As the paper notes correctly, our epic win resulted from the intervention of that shrill and godless old militant uncivil atheist, P. Z. Myers. His reach is global!

The staggering number of votes prompted Satnan to temporarily pull the poll to investigate if the results were authentic. Satnan discovered a link to the poll was placed at by blog author P.Z. Myers, who is a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris. “We had an overwhelming response from people who read scientific blogs,” Satnan said. “The poll may not reflect Sedalia’s viewpoint but it does show the global reading audience’s stance.”

Well, at least those of the “global reading audience” who peruse Pharyngula.

According to, pharyngulate is a word created by Myers meaning to skew results of an online poll, usually having to do with religion, science, or politics, in order to reflect a more rational result or to crash an online poll by publishing its link so that large numbers of blog readers will make their opinions known there, often shifting the results dramatically.

If views continue at the current rate, DeFord said, it will reach 90,406 before the night is done. DeFord said Monday’s views indicate the story is viral, or has become popular in a short period of time.

Of those views, many originated from as far away as London, England; Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; Dublin, Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Oslo, Norway; and Auckland, New Zealand, DeFord reported.

Unsung in this kerfuffle is Abbie Smith, who was not only the first to pick up the item about the banned tee-shirts, but also the first to call attention to the Democrat’s online poll. You go, erv!

Of course the poll is hardly an unbiased sample of reader opinion — no matter who you see as “readers” — but maybe, just maybe, it will awaken the good citizens of Sedalia to the enormous support for evolution out there. It reminds me of how the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania found themselves unwillingly fixed in the public spotlight after a similarly boneheaded act. One comment already suggests some incipient embarrassment:

Internet polls are statistically meaningless, but a resounding 97% verdict strongly suggests that the school district has a serious problem in the court of world opinion. As far as I can tell, most of the Internet coverage came from blogs (both scientific and religious), but Sedalia was spared the widespread ridicule that would have accompanied mainstream press attention. It should be grateful for that.

(Missourian here, by the way, living far away in Latin America and embarrassed today by my beloved home state. When did we let the loons take over?)

16 thoughts on “Sedalia paper: tee-shirt poll Pharyngulated!

  1. “The staggering number of votes prompted Satnan to temporarily pull the poll to investigate if the results were authentic.”


    I thought he didn’t exist!

    1. I laughed as well. I wonder if Mr. Satnan gets any grief over his name in a town that bans tshirts for possible scientific references. Can you imagine what the letters are like if the paper publishes an editorial the public doesn’t like?

  2. Congratulations to the Sedalia Democrat. They’ve discovered how meaningless and unauthentic Internet polls are. Or have they?

    Btw, I’m offended he didn’t mention Denmark. I even voted three times! Guess I will have to vote some more. 🙂

    1. Actually, I want to correct myself a bit. Internet polls are not completely meaningless. But just like every other poll, you need to interpret the results properly. The real result of interest in this case is that they got 50 times more votes than usual. This means that the little town of Sedalia did something controversial that caught the attention of many people all over the world. At the very least that should make them think – though I fear it will not.

      1. They missed me, too!

        I only voted once, though.

        But I did vote twice on the stupid Plutopoll, since I was in Copenhagen that day.

  3. Dude, I even EMAILED them, if they had any questions about the internet reaction to Smith-Cotton pulling the shirts! My hometown is like, right next to Sedalia!

    But they interview *PZ* instead.

    Sista cant catch a break…

    LOL!!! And in fairness, The Sensuous Curmudgeon knew about this first, but I didnt see it till after I found it. The Curmudgeon knows everything…

    1. It is global in the sense that votes were submitted from around the globe.
      And it may well have made the poll creators stagger.

  4. As I former Missourian myself (I left to move to NY for PhD school) I can’t say I’m surprised. There are a ton of mindless religious drones there (ERV can relate I’m sure). There’s a reason I left the state to get my PhD. I wanted out.

  5. As a former substitute teacher for the Sedalia school district and fellow Missourian, I’m embarrassed as well at this nonsense. I wrote a polite and direct e-mail to the superintendents asking them to stand up for science education.

  6. The poll was pulled before I could vote. 🙁 Recount! Recount! I demand a recount!

    Hey, if the poll’s on the internet it’s fair game. Besides, these are totally worthless polls because the methodology is seriously flawed, so voters from all over the planet aren’t messing with anything important and usually not even messing with anything significant. Every time I see a poll on a news site I wish I could walk into the news offices and smack whoever had that silly idea.

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