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#21 - Curator: A magazine recently ran a very misleading

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Complete Question Explanation

Strengthen—Principle. The correct answer choice is (E)

In general, the test makers believe that surveys and opinion polls can be useful indicators of public
sentiment, but only if conducted correctly. Hence they will occasionally formulate questions that are
based upon the principles of appropriate sampling. A truly representative sample must be significant,
random, and unbiased. A sample is significant if it is large enough for its characteristics to reflect the
characteristics of the entire population. A sample is random if any member of the population had an
equal chance of being included in the sample. A sample is unbiased if there is no evidence of collusion
among the sample members or persuasion/incentive given by those conducting the survey. Because a
representative survey requires the correct execution of so many elements, more often than not when an
argument on the LSAT is based upon public opinion or a survey, that argument will be flawed.

The curator argues that this sample used by the magazine story is misleading. In order to strengthen this
conclusion, one must show that the sample was insignificant, not random, or biased. Is it possible for
three residents to comprise a significant sample? That depends on the size and attributes of the entire
population, which is not known. Were these three residents randomly chosen? We do not know what
methodology the magazine used, but it may have been random. Are these three residents likely to be
unbiased? Here is the curator’s complaint with the magazine story. Since all three residents are close
friends, they are likely to have similar opinions and may have even discussed their opinions regarding
the exhibit with each other. Thus the fact that three residents all had the same opinion about the exhibit
cannot be used to claim that most residents had the same opinion as well.

Answer choice (A): The three residents quoted in the story are never credited as experts, so the curator
does not feel the story is misleading for quoting people who were unqualified to express their reactions.
The curator is angry because the three people quoted are not representative of the group (most people)
that they are intended to represent.

Answer choice (B): This consideration is only applicable if the local residents of the town are likely
to be evenly divided on their reaction to the art exhibit. Since the stimulus does not provide enough
evidence for this conclusion, this answer choice cannot be used to strengthen the curator’s argument.

Answer choice (C): The curator certainly believes that it is misleading for the magazine story to present
the opinions of these three residents as evidence of what the majority thinks. But the stimulus does
not tell us whether the sense of moral outrage expressed by these residents was widely held. Since it is
possible that their opinions were widely held, the magazine story is not necessarily misleading and this
answer choice would not strengthen the curator’s conclusion.

Answer choice (D): The story does not imply that the three close friends must agree with each other;
it demonstrates that these friends did agree with each other and thereby implies that most other local
residents did as well.

Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. As noted in the discussion of the stimulus, a
sample must be unbiased to be representative. The opinions of the three close friends are not necessarily
biased, but there is certainly substantial evidence to believe that they are. Therefore, it is misleading for
the magazine to present the friend’s opinions as if they represent public opinion. This statement greatly
strengthens the curator’s argument.
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I was between the answer choices C and E in this question. Could you explain the difference between them? I thought C was a better fit to the stimulus because it said "widely held" and I felt the need that I was supposed to use the fact that the three residents were all close friends.

Thank you for the clarification!
Steve Stein
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Thanks for your message--that's a good question, as it points to a subtle but important distinction between those two answer choices. Correct answer choice (E) provides that it is misleading to present this potentially unrepresentative sample as if they represented public opinion (as the author said "to suggest that most local residents oppose the exhibit.")

Answer choice (C), on the other hand, says that it is wrong to present the opinion of a few as such evidence "unless the opinions are widely held." Part of the problem with this choice is that the author doesn't mention whether or not those opinions actually are widely held. Note the difference between the bold language in this choice ("unless") and the softer language of correct answer choice (E), which says that it is wrong to present even a potentially unrepresentative sample as though it represents the majority.

Good question! I hope that's helpful! Please let me know whether this is clear--thanks!

Steve Stein
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Thank you so much fr clarifying this!