Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Yes, No, Don’t Know, Don’t Care!

December 12, 2010

Most polls, whether political, social or taking the temperature of consumerism have a major flaw. When questions are posed they allow for responses of yes and no and various gradations: strongly and mildly agree or disagree. Some even allow for indecision: don’t know. But rarely does the pollster offer or record another powerful option: don’t care!

Yes or no are self explanatory. Even “Don’t Know” indicates that the pollee has considered the question but either has insufficient information or has had insufficient time to consider a more definite response. Either way a “Don’t Know” pollee is engaged with the poll.

A response of “Don’t Care” by definition is unambiguously an intention NOT to engage with the poll. “Don’t Care” is a response that many deem irresponsible, without thought and without merit. On the contrary, a firm “Don’t Care” informs the pollster that a definite decision on the subject matter has already been made and that the pollsters task is at an end for that pollee.

There is at least one poll that can make an informed guess at the level of “Don’t Cares”. Election polls in Australia, where voting is supposedly compulsory, give an indication of the possible size of the “Don’t Cares”. For in Australia, as in each of its State and Territory jurisdictions, enrolment to vote is also compulsory.

At the last Federal Election in 2010, the national turnout of voters was just over 93% of enrolments. So 7% of 14,088,000 potential voters couldn’t or wouldn’t turn up to vote. Nor did they take the opportunity to cast their votes in any one of several other ways the Australian Electoral Commission provides for those who would for some reason have difficulty turning up to a polling place. So about 985,000 people failed to vote despite being enrolled.

A further 5.5% of those who did vote, or 729,000 people, voted informally either by choice or by unintentional voting error.

Finally of people over 18, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) estimates around 1,400,000 are not enrolled at all in 2010.

So at the 2010 election we had an eligible voting population of 15,488,000 of whom 3,114,000 (20%) couldn’t vote (not enrolled), didn’t vote (enrolled but didn’t turn up) or voted ineffectively (voted informally).

There are indeed a myriad of reason that people are not enrolled, don’t turn up to vote or vote informally. However The AEC makes it their business to limit the numbers in each of these categories through advertising, education and making voting available to people regardless of their circumstances.

So, let us assume that half of these 3 million people intended to vote effectively but for some reason they were not on the electoral roll, could not take advantage of the myriad of ways to vote or simply unintentionally and unknowingly made a mistake on their ballot that made it informal.

That still leaves 1,557,000 adult Australians who one way or the other DON’T CARE about the outcome of the main election in Australia every three years. In case that doesn’t sound like a lot, 1,557,000 people, evenly spread among the 150 lower house electorate amounts to around 10,380 per electorate who don’t care! Or if they were divided into their own electorates, the “Don’t Cares” would amount to an extra 15 electorates. In a country that now has a hung parliament with no party having a majority and six independents or somewhat independently minded, an extra 10,000 votes per electorate or an extra 15 electorates could make or break the intentions of ANY intending government.

And as to polling of matters outside politics? Oprah coming to Australia: at least 75% “Don’t Care”; Justin Bieber touring Australia and tickets can be purchased online: over 18’s 98% “Don’t Care”. And the 2%? They are the parents of the tweens who do the drop off and pick ups!

Finally how does the pollster know to record a “Don’t Care”? If the poll is by phone, the phone being hung up before the end of the first question renders all answers “Don’t Care”. If the poll is in person, a closed door, a person who walks away or any other show of disinterest is a “Don’t Care”. The great thing about the “Don’t Care” response is that the pollster will know after one question!

To the pollsters of the world: all polls, surveys and questionnaires are incomplete without a response of “Don’t Care”.


All about Parliament (Standing, Sitting, Speaking and Listening)

December 6, 2010

Every member of parliament has a seat. But before they can take their seat in parliament they need to stand at an election. But at an election many people can stand for the one seat but only one can sit until the next election when more people can stand for the seat. Now the sitting member can stand again while they remain sitting but if another person wins the election, the sitting member is unseated and cannot sit again until they stand at another election and then unseat the sitting member themselves.

In the parliament, all members sit on benches. There are government benches, opposition benches and cross benches. The members on the cross benches are cross that they are not allowed to sit on the government benches or the opposition benches. The government and the opposition have a front bench and a number of back benches. The cross benches only have back benches, which begs the question of why the first cross bench is not a front bench – it just isn’t – it is merely the first cross bench back bench with no front bench in front of it.

The Parliament also has a Speaker whose job is to listen to the sitting members when they stand to say something. So the Speaker should in fact be called a Listener because he listens to what sitting members are saying when they are standing. Furthermore some sitting members try to speak over sitting members who are standing because they wish to speak. The Speaker must listen to the sitting member who is interrupting the standing sitting member to determine if the interrupting sitting member has a point of order. If not, the Speaker tells the sitting member to stop speaking because the sitting member who is standing has the floor.

After some time of sitting (called a session), Parliament rises for a recess – like little lunch at school, only longer. So the members leave their seat in Parliament House and go back to the seat that they won when they stood for the seat at election time. Then they talk to some of the people that helped them stand in their seat and who voted for them when they stood so they could sit so that when they return to the Parliament to sit in the next session they will be able to ask the Speaker if they can stand so they can speak while the other members listen to the ideas of the people in the sitting standing speaking member’s seat.

After three years of sessions, recesses and multiple standing of sitting members to speak to the Speaker and other members that listen – then there is another election. And all the sitting members stay in their seat. while they stand against all the other people who want to sit in their seat after the election – unless of course the sitting member is sick of all this sitting, standing, speaking and listening and decides to retire!

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