Florida gives $3.8 million to Lauren’s Kids charity after questionable poll on sex abuse

By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org 

Gov. Rick Scott and Lauren Book at an April rally in Tallahassee for Lauren's Kids charity

Gov. Rick Scott and Lauren Book at an April rally in Tallahassee for Lauren’s Kids charity

On June 4, Lauren’s Kids, released the results of an Internet poll it commissioned that found more than one-third of female respondents and one-fifth of male respondents had admitted to being sexually abused as children.

The survey’s results came in just as legislators reconvened for a special session to decide the 2015-2016 budget, which included a $3.8 million grant for the Aventura-based charity that specializes in child sex abuse prevention education.

Founded by Lauren Book, the daughter of prominent Tallahassee lobbyist Ronald Book, Lauren’s Kids got the funding, even escaping Gov. Rick Scott’s dreaded veto axe. But the trustworthiness of the online survey – a method national polling experts warn often results in unreliable, inaccurate public opinion data – can’t be verified.

Sachs Media Group, the Tallahassee public relations firm that was paid an undisclosed sum by Lauren’s Kids to conduct the poll, declined to provide detailed information about how individuals were selected to participate in the invitation-only survey. A Sachs senior executive also would not say how many people received invitations, and cited privacy considerations in declining to provide a list of the 1,033 participating Florida adults and their responses.

“We use industry standard balancing and targeting techniques to ensure randomness [of the participants],” said Karen Cyphers, Sachs Media Vice-President for Research and Policy. “The survey was fully online, no person-to-person interviews were conducted. Of those who clicked on the initial invitation to participate, the completion rate was just over 75 percent.”

Cyphers did provide FloridaBulldog.org with the list of poll questions that led to some of the alarming conclusions in the Lauren’s Kids survey.

For instance, the first question asked, “Were you sexually abused prior to age 18?” According to the document provided by Cyphers, 21 percent responded “yes.”

The participants who answered “no,” “not sure,” or “don’t want to say” were then shown a list of acts that constitute child sexual abuse that included being forced to expose themselves to grown-ups and being forced to watch adults have sex, Cyphers explained.

They were then asked, “After seeing a list of what constitutes child sexual abuse, were you sexually abused prior to age 18?” Nine percent of those who had answered “no,” “not sure,” or “don’t want to say” changed their answer to “yes,” according to the poll questions document.

QUESTIONS ABOUT SURVEY ACCURACY

Russell Renka, a retired political science professor at Southeastern Missouri University who wrote a 2010 research paper on what makes a good and bad poll, told FloridaBulldog.org the Lauren’s Kids survey is an advocacy poll being used to promote a specific viewpoint, which raises questions about accuracy.

Renka said professional pollsters, like the Pew Research Center, regularly publish backup data with survey results so that observers can independently evaluate the information. He noted Lauren’s Kids has only posted on its website selected highlights of the poll instead of the entire survey with the full set of questions and a full explanation of the methodology.

“You are counting on them to assure that the results are accurate,” Renka said. “That is a slippery slope.”

Click here to see the Research Methodology sheet provided by Sachs Media and its unit, Breakthrough Research, for the Lauren’s Kids survey.

Heather Gray, executive director of Lauren’s Kids, defended the nonprofit’s poll, saying Internet surveys have overtaken telephone methods in reaching a diverse, representative sample of respondents while producing reliably comparable results.

“Internet surveys reduce interviewer bias, enabling respondents to share personal or undesirable opinions without fear of judgment by another person,” Gray said. “This is important, particularly for a topic as sensitive as this one.”

However, even some of the nation’s most respected numbers crunchers caution about the use of Internet-based surveys.

In an early June post on his blog FiveThirtyEight, stats wunderkind Nate Silver said web polls are a big part of gauging public opinion, but that some pollsters are abandoning scientific principles when conducting them.

“It’s fundamentally challenging to ‘ping’ a random voter on the Internet in the same way that you might by giving her an unsolicited call on her phone,” Silver writes. “Many pollsters that do Internet surveys eschew the concept of the random sample, instead recruiting panels that they claim are representative of the population.”

Silver points out that online surveys grossly miscalculated the results in last year’s mid-term elections, Israel’s general election in March, and the Parliament elections in the United Kingdom last month.

“The foundation of opinion research has historically been the ability to draw a random sample of the population,” Silver writes. “That’s become much harder to do.”

Cliff Zukin, a former president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, wrote in the June 20 New York Times Sunday Review that there are major problems with Internet polls.

PROBLEMS WITH INTERNET POLLS

“First is what pollsters call ‘coverage error,’” Zukin wrote. “Not everybody is reachable online.”

A professor at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Zukin asserts that statisticians have not figured out how to draw a representative sample of Internet users.

“Almost all online election polling is done with nonprobability samples,” Zukin opines. “These are largely unproven methodologically…It is impossible to calculate a margin of error on such surveys.”

Also problematic are the conflicting interests involved when a company that conducts the survey, in this case Sachs Media, is paid to do so by another company with an interest in the outcome.

Cyphers insisted Sach’s Internet polls are scientifically sound. For the Lauren’s Kids poll, she said invitations were randomly sent to people who were identified as living in Florida. Those who responded that they resided out-of-state were dropped from the results.

Between 2011 and 2013, Lauren’s Kids paid Sachs a total of $1.6 million for producing webinars, program materials such as brochures, palm cards and a mobile app, and a 30-minute TV program that was aired on network affiliate television stations throughout Florida, among other media services.

The poll results came out at a crucial time for Lauren’s Kids, which has received nearly $7 million in state appropriations in previous years used to fund the non-profit’s programs that train kids, teachers, and child caretakers at the Pre-K to third grade level to recognize the signs of sexual abuse and report it to authorities.

With the $3.8 million Lauren’s Kids will receive this year, it plans to expand its curriculum at the fourth grade to high school level. During the teleconference with reporters on June 4, Lauren Book, who was sexually abused when she was a teen, said the Internet poll proved the reasons why her programs must continue.

“Clearly sexual abuse can happen in any family,” Book said, adding the poll “shines a light on how much work we have to do to report sexual abuse and to recognize the signs of sexual abuse.”

The appropriation for Lauren’s Kids was tucked in a $23.8 million pot for “school and instructional enhancements” that emerged unscathed when the governor finalized the budget earlier this week. Scott obliterated funding for 24 other special interest projects on the list, including $100,000 for youth summer job programs and $30,000 for a financial literacy pilot program in Broward County.

Gray said Lauren’s Kids was not given preferential treatment.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who sits on the appropriations committee, sponsored funding for Lauren’s Kids. Fresen did not respond to a request for comment, but Gray said he was required to submit the non-profit’s request before the entire committee for evaluation.

Gray said Lauren’s Kids was also vetted before the state senate appropriations committee.

“Chairman Don Gaetz [a Republican] and Vice Chairman Bill Montford [a Democrat] sent a joint letter to all organizations in the state budget who received funding in fiscal year 2014-15 and asked them to submit information for evaluation for fiscal year 2015-16,” Gray said. “We complied with the request and are pleased to have received bipartisan support from the committee upon completion of the submission and evaluation process.”

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  1. Lauren’s numbers are low, not high. The fear of those that embrace rather abhor these numbers is palpable, you can smell it in the words of those that would treat children as chattel goods – no more – 1 in 3 is NOT Ok. Lauren will back her numbers and she will not be as kind with naysayers as I am, she has the right. I DO NO WANT TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR THE AUTHORS OF THIS ARTICLE WHEN LAUREN NEXT HAS THE OPPORTUNITY to look and speak directly to those that would assault her again in any fashion as seems to be indicated here in this article where there are those that think they can simply dismiss her and the hard cold numbers indicating that hundreds of thousands of women are right there in her corner, with her, backing her – and ready to stop other children from being similarly abused and/or neglected – The numbers DO seem SURREAL but to speak against them without knowing of that which you speak is… well… as I said… I don’t want to be anywhere near when Lauren get’s a chance to tell the authors of this article whats-what… my suggestion… change your tune… or start running hard and fast as you can now. It won’t help – she’s a runner. Sucks to be you I guess. Definitely need to change your tune soon, if not for the sake of all of our Florida children, then for your own skin – I’m the pussy-cat – she’s ready to walk, run or crawl to YOU personally if need be is all I’m saying… so… good luck with that!

  2. Lauren Book’s numbers are always the result of predetermined conclusions in search of a study willing to conform to this predetermined conclusion.

    The oldest survey I can find that made the outlandish “1 in 3” claim victim groups love to use was an LA Times poll from around 1984, during the apex of the satanic ritual abuse scares, back when we taught people a variety of illnesses or mental maladies one suffers was definitely the result of abuse even if you don’t remember it.

    The problem with establishing a bad precedent is that subsequent studies will replicate the findings using the same faulty methodology.

  3. Speaking of Lauren & “running,” Lauren Crook certainly ran away from a few facts during her silly march across FloriDUH.

    She stated in the New Times she welcomed her critics to meet her face to face, but when her critics met her in Tallahassee, she ran like a coward. Ron too, for that matter.

    They like to hide behind smokescreens and politics.

  4. MILLENNIALS ROCK! Education Reformers learn about Unintended Consequences the Hard Way: Do not confuse science with political opinion – economics is a SCIENCE – drop a rock and it WILL NOT FALL UP. There ARE REAL Mathematical and Economic FACTs that are just as inviolate as gravity and that are NOT political opinion any more than gravity is and anyone saying differently knows nothing about math, economics, or the Nobel prize award. One is equally ill-informed if one believes evolution is opinion or that the Earth is the center of the universe in the EXACT same fashion as believing one optimizes anything other than the profits of a few and an overall decrease in the fitness and profits of all locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide. Wake UP people!

    FACT not Political Opinion: Free-markets DO NOT OPTIMIZE ANYTHING other than the profits of a few and DO NOT lead to any hypothetical future unseen or long-term benefits but only ever benefit a mostly undeserving few – Free Markets plain flat-out no-way-possible in this universe WORK without RULE OF LAW and TRANSPARENCY and HISTORICAL MEMORY – this is scientific FACT not Politics whether modeled on a computer, scribbled and solved as an equation, or carried out as policy on a school board. RULE OF LAW is needed to prevent complete takeover by KINGS and CORPORATIONS that then act as Monopolies without the PUBLIC REPRESENTATION that is the CORNERSTONE of what it is to live in AMERICA.

    This stubborn and make not mistake about it – MORALLY-DRIVEN unwillingness to SUBMIT to TYRANNY by special interest political lobbyists, corporations, or kings is the ONLY reason a planet of aware humans felt the need to migrate here and nowhere else. FREE-MARKETS cannot and do not work and lead to DISASTER when rule of law is removed and Kings and Corporate Interest Lobbyists are not only allowed, but are ENCOURAGED to LIE AND DECEIVE: Only 5 schools out of 250 have more than half of their students able to pass all 6 MAIN SUBJECTS – How can this be? It cannot happen without a great deal of political community and media complicity and not exaggeration or “putting things in a good light” but outright LIES and CENSORSHIP.

    We have lost the ability to discern the difference between LIES and putting a positive SPIN on things – HERE IS an Example of a Lie – Can you recognize the difference? It truly is not hard if you will only give it an honest try – HERE is an example of a LIE and NOT an Exaggeration: To claim ANY improvement and to claim that schools are performing adequately when IN 245 OF 250 SCHOOLS MORE THAN HALF OF THE KIDS THAT GRADUATE CANNOT PASS 1 OR MORE OF THE SIX MAIN SUBJECTS NEEDED TO GRADUATE – IN STATES OTHER THAN FLORIDA! Our bought and owned by POLITICAL lobbyists education system CANNOT EXIST UNLESS THEY CENSOR THIS INFORMATION FROM THE PUBLIC.

    A lawsuit needs to be filed based on the old Knob Hill law in San Francisco that says you can’t build a fence to lower your neighbors property value so you can buy it cheaper – You can’t target a region and defund its education and workforce infrastructure as part of a political strategy to neutralize the opposing party and create a breadbasket of future conscripts. You are being used as a tool Mr. Runcie – I do not mean to rush you – I know this has been a lot to process in a short time… but the kids cannot wait any longer. THINK! SEE! Scream the REAL numbers from the rooftops Mr. Runcie and be a TOOL no more. You can do this. You deserve to do this just as Lauren deserves to be the one out front to see real change happen and 1 in 3 cease to be. Now Mr. Runcie, now.

    It is time to LOOK INTO LOBBYIST TIES TO POLITICAL PARTIES.
    Will you, will we, do this?

    Lobbyists COMPETE with the public for the ATTENTION of OUR politicians and their entire reason for existence is to benefit the views of wealthy institutions and individuals over the PUBLIC – Also, perhaps IT IS TIME TO BAN DIRECT DEALINGS WITH LOBBYISTS BY FIRST-TIER DIRECT-ELECT-LOCAL PUBLIC SERVANTS SUCH AS School Board Members – Or BAN LOBBYISTS from DEALING with politicians directly – Insist that lobbyists work with and support the PUBLIC and existing PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS and disallow lobbyists from competing with the public as they NOW do. What do you think!

    Why are BOTH Transparency AND Historical MEMORY critical? Education politicians in Florida and elsewhere have passed laws to enable the erasing of their emails after 2 years – The collateral damage to the psychological and health services has been devastating – originally conceived by scientists seeking to gain access to group data to benefit everyone, the lobbyists have usurped the process to their own ill-purpose despite the carnage to the public’s best interests – true criminality without the breaking of any law and very, very sad to witness.

    If you on’t want to take my word on all this than LISTEN to Nobel Laureate Dr.Michio Kaku – THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DEMOCRACY OF THE PEOPLE BECOMES AN OLIGARCHY BY SPECIAL INTERESTS – Something to think about, yes?
    https://youtu.be/e7D3_eGaO5k?list=PL37zI8Bvr5cfxxk___DYPGVnkDs-rPuLl

    Are YOU one of the people that would have just driven past this child in the street?
    https://youtu.be/UqVYUzHc5L8?list=PL37zI8Bvr5cfxxk___DYPGVnkDs-rPuLl
    If you think you would NEVER do this – You are doing it right now.

    Think on this next time you feel it necessary to censor the facts that make you uncomfortable enough to feel the unconscious need to pee, or feel a tummy-upset, or onset of headache – the unconscious biology is REAL and so is the PHYSICAL Reality of the very real biological STRUGGLE within you. As you THINK and SEE facts and science that CONFLICTS with ones conservative/liberal belief systems you will FEEL the discord. Ones conservative fears are NOT (entirely) false and you ARE right to feel as you do based on the REALITY of your own experience and the REALITY of the world as it currently exists around the world and here in Broward as well. If we wish to change this REALITY then YOU are needed – YOU must suffer the pains of a real battle against the biology of our birth. Who asks this of us?

    The MILLENNIALS ask us to do this. Our children. How amazing is THAT!

    Let us not disappoint this AMAZING GENERATION!

    The world is about to become blinding-bright, thanks to our kids. Let’s help them in this, do not fight them. Why do they demand this of us now when all of history before has been fine with letting this endless cycle of violence and inefficiency continue? I don’t know. Do you. Does it matter? Let’s be glad and do our bit, ok?

    Effective communication demands that you understand that our children are literally gnawing on themselves and that we are ALL standing on the bones of our own children when the numbers reach 1 in 3 – period.

    Both transparency and historical MEMORY are important to a Free-Market PLUS rule of law and accountability.

    ONE IN THREE IS NOT OK!

    What are YOUR expectations?

    WAKE UP BROWARD! 1 in 3 IS NOT OK! Local press has recently challenged the statistic of 1 in 3 abused, neglected, or victimized by 18 in Broward and across the nation. Sigh! We must ELIMINATE not just SAMPLING errors but far more importantly, totally defuse the ability of anti-intellectuals to make Sampling Error or any Other kind of Statistical Accusations whether out of ignorance and fear of math or with mindful intent whose purpose is obfuscation. That statistics and science are so easily discounted by so many with such flimsy pseudo-accusations is how the truly SURREAL numbers like 1 in 3 happen to our children. These are not statistics and numbers they are REAL FLESH and BLOOD kids – and not some “other” kids any different from yours and your neighbors.

    This matter and this local article are dire omens with dead-serious consequences for our community – this is the SEED of it all and THIS absolutely MUST be dealt with HERE IS HOW TO FIX THIS once and for all – It is imperative that this be settled with a knock-out no-more-nonsense final LOUD unassailable RESOUNDING RESPONSE: HERE IS HOW TO DO THIS: 1 in 3 statistic by having exclusive polling of first responders, doctors, police, firemen, emt’s, teachers, principals, psychologists, and counselors. Doing this will END once and for all the silly-defensive-ill-informed accusations regarding sampling errors.

    WHY: Lauren Book of Lauren’s Kids has been accused of misrepresenting statistics with a clear implication that the millions spent for her efforts to reduce the 1 in 3 statistic have been part of a scam. The number is hard to believe, true – but to pretend that anything other than petty politics is involved is pure nonsense once one see’s WHY the article was written and HOW MANY truly relevant questions were IGNORED while this ONE single item was cherry-picked out. I am not being overly harsh I don’t believe when assailing the core motivations, the 1 in 3 number is hard to swallow, it is SURREAL – I said as much in the statement that motivated the article in the first place (made in front of the Broward County school board). A TRUE reporter and not a PROPAGANDIST LOBBYIST may well have included the entirety of that printed by the Bulldog in its accusatory article, but this would have comprised a fifth or less of the article. That the intent is to “push” that 1 in 3 is out of the ballpark wrong and incorrect – this is not reporting but propaganda disguised as news when the intent is to lobby to maintain a status-quo – a person is a propagandist and lobbyist regardless of whether paid or not, or press! news media or not, lobbying is still lobbying. 1 in 3 IS NOT OK! WAKE UP BROWARD I think the author meant well, he is modeling OUR behavior – both he and we need to re-assess the situation.

    TO: Author of the Bulldog article – seriously, out of all that was said you thought to challenge the 1 in 3 number and the money spent first? Seriously? I mean, like… What’s up with that? Bit creepy really – so… uh… drop me a line, we’ll chat.

    To: Anyone else that wants to help – you can RE-TWEET THIS;
    Aftermath Of Cosby’s Admission? That the SURREAL statistic of 1 in 3 kids victimized by 18 is REAL http://huff.to/1Tj4zjC via @HuffPostWomen

  5. Hector Gomez says:

    Putting everything aside, the reporter is absolutely correct that this survey has no statistical validity. This is a self-selected sample, also called a “non-probability” sample. Because it is not a “random sample”, there is no way to gauge the margin for error and statistical confidence level of these results.

  6. Stacey says:

    Lauren’s numbers are low – the problem is within the DCF and Child Protective Services. The majority want to just move things along and basically reduce the ripples. When most people make claims of child abuse to either agency and persist (as any normal guardian of an abused or possibly abused guardian would) these agencies will treat them as trouble makers, even side against them and do more harm by putting huge financial and stressful burdens on these guardians, parent and so on of the children. Bottom line is thank God for Laurens Kids, especially in south Florida BSO areas. The DCF and CPIS which might as well be nothing at all is more driven to keep themselves employed by suppressing bad stats so they dont look bad instead of actually doing the hard dirty work and not be so lazy and save children like Laurens Kids is doing. Real stats is the real eye opener people need otherwise the same old same old is only gonig to get worse and worse. Especially since child porn is exploding with black market sales and interests from closet pedophiles. Good going Lauren!!! fight the fight that needs fighting!!!

  7. Terre Tulsiak says:

    Exactly to all comments. Instead of conducting unscientific retrospective polls (who do they THINK is going to click on it!) how about better education of teachers, medical professionals and social workers, and the pay raise to go along with it…

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