I just got a phone call from the pollsters. The reputable ones – Ipsos Mori – running a poll commissioned by the BBC. I was just starting my (late) lunch, so it was a relatively good time and I didn’t just hang up.
Verdict: what a monumental waste of time! And of course questions having no meaningful answer, or answers that would tend to support some loony-fringe campaign. Just about the only stupid thing they didn’t ask about was religion, though they did ask my ethnicity (in a rather offensive way, but I think that’s just copied from the census so it’s not their fault). Come to think of it, they did ask if I believed in an afterlife and various supernatural things, so that was probably a proxy for religion: if I’d answered “yes” there’d’ve been more specific questions. But that followed such daft questions as UFOs and Diana conspiracy theories, and caught me in assume-a-trivia-agenda mode.
There were also potentially-serious questions: “do I believe government advice on [issue]” (mostly yes – where they have no motive for misleading us), and “which of [list] do I consider most important”? The latter were particularly bad: for example, the most important attributes (strong management, trustworthiness, personal recommendation, gut instinct, ???) in a public organisation such as the government or the NHS (well, I’d give different answers for each of those, but that wasn’t allowed).
Some of them were also rather politically charged. Do we accept too many asylum seekers? Yes, but that’s because we have far too many people in total: the fact that some of them are asylum seekers is neither here nor there. Oops, that’s not an option.
All in all, an insight into the utter worthlessness of public opinion surveys. Not that I really needed it: I am numerate, and have enough statistics in my background (in both my degree and my early professional career) to notice what they don’t say much more loudly than what they do.