Yesterday, Rob Salmond offered Chris Trotter a bet based on Chris writing an over-excited interpretation of an online poll. Who writes posts on the basis of online polls of less than 400 people? It is the same problem as interpreting small junk “markets” like iPredict which are rife with idiots of the right trying to push the odds away from reality with small amounts of cash. Really!
BTW: Can anyone get in on this bet? Sure things are the best bets.
Here’s Chris Trotter yesterday talking about the historical significance of a 382 person online poll on a blog site that suddenly – and for two days in a row – has shown the Greens forging 10% ahead of Labour:
Call it the wisdom of crowds. Announce that we’ve reached a tipping point. Put it down to a change in the zeitgeist. However 2014 is later explained by the political scientists, I want the readers of The Daily Blog – the canaries in a coal mine – to remember that they were the ones who succumbed to the gaseous exhalations of Labour’s political decomposition long before anybody else.
Well, if there is any gaseous exhalation in the vicinity of Chris’ blog post, it is… Chris’ entire blog post.
I’ll skip over the bits where Chris fails to understand how books like The Wisdom of Crowds or concepts like the zeitgeist relate to online polls (hint: they don’t).
I’ll even ignore the extended part where Chris decides to rely on Cameron Slater as a helpful source of information about the state of the Labour caucus.
Instead, I want to highlight this passage, and then offer Chris Trotter a bet. Here’s the passage:
Okay! I know, I know! There’s nothing in the least bit scientific about this sort of on-line poll. The 382 participants in the survey were all self-selected and the Daily Blog’s audience is a very long way from being representative of the wider New Zealand population.
But, don’t you see, that’s the whole point! If you exclude the National Party types getting to “know thy enemy”, the people who regularly read The Daily Blog, are overwhelmingly more Left than Centre. If Labour has shed 10 percentage points from the readership of this blog, its most sympathetic of audiences, how long can it be until the big, media-commissioned polls – Colmar Brunton, Reid Research, DigiPoll – all register a similar sudden collapse of Labour support among the general population?
My first point is that this is obviously over the top, lunatic analysis. But Chris seems to actually believe it. (Maybe I missed a very dry tongue-in-cheek here, but I don’t think so.) Chris thinks his online poll acts as a canary in the coal mine for Labour – by a method known in the outside world as “magical hand waving.”
Point two, I would like to offer Chris a bet. I think his analysis is completely silly, and I’ll back that up with $500. Perhaps Chris would like to back up his political analysis – being the Very Serious Commentator that he is – with some money of his own. I’ll even give Chris odds.
Chris Trotter, here is my proposition to you:
Coming back to reality, here’s what I think happened with The Daily Blog poll: A group of very politically active left-leaning people expressed their displeasure at Labour’s poor political performance this week by voting for other parties in an online poll they knew to be completely inconsequential.
Not nearly as exciting as Chris’ interpretation, of course. But more, you know, accurate.
A final note to Chris: If you wish to post about this issue and give it your own voice with your signature over-intellectualised language, please include Occam’s razor as a concept that supports my interpretation of your poll. For a change, this overblown phrase will actually be relevant to the paragraph it appears in.