Tuesday, 23 April 2013

My Random Sample on the Referendum: Some Results

I've been out and about taking a random sample. Most of the sampling was in St Helier, along the High Street, Royal Square, and West Centre, but I also did some around Quennevais Parade. Unlike the online polls which are on blogs, campaign sites, and media pages, this was a random survey and not a self-selecting one. Online polls get people to come and vote; they reflect only those who choose to do so, which may not reflect the population as a whole. A random sample aims to ask people at random, and eliminate self-selection bias. I deliberately avoided any meetings or rallies as that would bias the result.

Some of the interesting results from my survey:

82% of the people I spoke to have heard of the Referendum. However, only 27% actually received or read a leaflet. This tallies with what Ben Shenton mentioned about his meeting of businessmen who had no idea about any Referendum. It suggests that the increased  impact of the Referendum on the public consciousness is coming most from supporters of the Options and the media.

At the time of sampling, only 31% knew the date of the Referendum, although they knew it was in April.

At the 10% confidence level, liking the options correlates most strongly with Option A At the 5% level, there is no correlation between liking an option and any choice. This means that there is a weak link between liking the options and choosing Option A.

There is no correlation between people who want Constables and people who want Senators. Some want both, some are undecided about Constables but want Senators, some just want Constables and not Senators. This suggests a split between Option B and Option C.

My poll gave 55% of those polled saying they would vote, and 24% undecided. The rest would not be voting. Of course saying you will vote and turning out are two different things. An opinion poll problem is that people are not always honest; they don't like to say they won't be voting. My gut feeling is that only around 15-20% will vote.

69% of those I asked said they had voted in the last election, suggesting some dissatisfied voters who will not be turning out deliberately. When asked if they had ever voted, the number rose to 76%.

89% said they were registered to vote, which again highlights a disparity between being able to vote and turning out to vote. The registration form comes as an official document, and speaking to people who have never voted, I gleaned the information that they will fill in any official form which says complete and return, but that's as far as it goes. They have no interest in politics, but they'll fill in forms!

Only 13% said they liked the options, but there were some "not sures". The fact, however that the options have not got much support, even among people who are going to vote, suggests people are prepared to vote for the "least bad option" because that is all that is on the table. There is no correlation between that and any actual option, suggesting that people in all three camps do not like the options much at all. Just imagine if "None of the Above" had been on the form, and got 55% of the vote!

Results on options, taking uncertain into account, are as follows:

Option A - between 16% and 44%
Option B - between 9% and 36%
Option C - between 11% and 38%
Abstain deliberately - between 13% and 22%

The certain figure is the lower bound, the upper figure is if all the wavering people on an option decide to go with it. Those wavering may, of course, decide on the day not to vote at all, or may cast a first and second choice. As it stands, it looks unlikely that any Option will get more than 50% of the vote, but Option A will do best. Some put undecided against several options.

It should be borne in mind that the sample is mostly of people either working or living in St Helier, and that may have a partial bias, although the presents of commuters should suggest some rural input. But I haven't been to the more rural Parishes. However, as it stands it looks as if it is A versus C with the 2nd choice of B being significant, and perhaps swinging in favour of C if B voters mostly have C as a second option.

Between 36% and 53% wanted to keep the Constables (again there was an element of uncertainly). This will be a mix of Option B and Option C voters, and suggests that Option C voters are not unanimous about keeping the Constables. Note that this was asked (and made clear) as if it was a separate Yes / No question. No Option A supporters wanted the Constables to remain.

Between 38% and 56% wanted to keep the Senators. This is surprising, given that Option C has an upper bound of around 38%, but the question asked if people had a choice apart from those give, a plain Yes / No, would they want the Senators, and there was a degree of support across the options. This reflects the very low value given to the choice of options, and some Option A supporters would still would have liked to keep an Islandwide mandate if it had been on the table. This was reflected in a number of verbal "asides".

Some of the "asides" were interesting. My favourite was an old chap who said "I don't vote; it only encourages them". There were a number of people unhappy with the options and were instead calling for an all Islandwide mandate (even though it has been ruled out by the Commission) - all Deputies as Senators. These are voters who don't attend hustings, which after all, is the majority! There was also a considerable degree of cynicism expressed about whether the States would take any notice of the results.

Quite a few people said they just "didn't do politics", and how one reverses this disengagement is something to explore in the future; my own fancy is that better psychological means of engagement will be needed. We have to engage with people and appeal to their emotions, captivate them, not just bombard them with facts and hope that will bring them out to vote.

A wider appeal is what I've tried (albeit poorly) to do with my presentation "The Constables of Jersey" on YouTube. It's not by any means perfect (I wanted music as well; I don't like my own voice, and wanted two voices speaking alternatively), but I think it is a step in the right direction in engagement (even if you disagree with its intent). In case you missed it, it is here:


and it is short, around 3 minutes to get a message over.

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