Friday, 7 October 2011

Dumb Britain round-up

In a bold move which blithely ignores the actual, y'know, academics who work here, The Hegemon hosts a series of poll questions for webpage viewers to vote on. They are, of course, insulting to any first-year student who's been to a lecture on methodology.

For instance:
Can you measure happiness?
  • Yes: 33%
  • No: 59%
  • Don't know: 8%
Perhaps not - but you can always ask an uninformed public about whether you can run polls on it. I suspect my colleagues in Psychology would be hard-pressed to find an objective, meaningful definition of 'happiness', let alone 'measure' it.

How's this one?
Will Britain become a nation of renters rather than homeowners?
  • Yes: 68%
  • No:  23%
  • Don't know: 9%
Unless all the respondent are housing economists (not that they've got a clue either), the only honest respondents are those who clicked 'don't know'.

This one just makes me angry:
  • Is the current big freeze in the UK a sign of climate change?
  • Yes - 46%
  • No - 47%
  • Don't know - 7%
It panders to the kind of arseholes who write Daily Express front pages. Again, only a climate scientist can have a reasonable opinion. It implies that it's OK to blithely link local, limited events to systemic shifts. It encourages the culture of 'what I reckon'. I know that's a bit rich coming from a blogger, but I tend not to spout off about stuff of which I know nowt. Ahem.

My favourite is this one:
Do you understand the 'Alternative Vote' system?
  • Yes: 54%
  • No: 39%
  • Don't know: 7%

The result doesn't tell you what percentage understand AV. It tells you the percentage of voters who think they understand AV. Which isn't the same thing.

I'm hosting a poll of my own:
Should poll questions be written by people who understand statistics and research methodology? 

  • Yes:
  • No:  
  • Don't know: 


Ewarwoowar said...

How can 7% vote "Don't know" on that last one? Surely you either understand something or you don't?

As it is, only 54% saying "Yes" is an absolute disgrace. What exactly is difficult about making a list ranked first to worst? (And I'm against AV, but anyone who says "it's too complicated" is either amazingly thick or being deliberately obtuse).

The Plashing Vole said...

But there's always the possibility that there's something a voter hasn't noticed about AV, so nobody should confidently declare that they definitely do understand it (unless they invented it). The voter can never know with certainty that they're perfectly informed.

That's how the referendum was lost: the Tories told everyone it was too complicated, which it wasn't, as you point out.