“But the sheer size of the survey […] makes it of interest…”

One of the most common errors in interpreting polls and surveys is the presumption that because something has a really huge sample size it is more meaningful. Or indeed, meaningful at all. Size isn’t what makes a poll meaningful, it is how representative the sample is. Picture it this way, if you’d done an EU referendum poll of only over 60s you’d have got a result that was overwhelmingly LEAVE… even if you polled millions of them. If you did a poll and only included people under 30 you’d have got a result that was overwhelmingly REMAIN… even if you polled millions of them. What matters is that the sample accurately reflects the wider population you want them to represent, that you have the correct proportions of both young and old (and male & female, rich & poor, etc, etc). Size alone does not guarantee that.

The classic real world example of this is the 1936 Presidential Election in the USA. I’ve referred to this many times but I thought it worth reciting the story in full, if only so people can direct others to it in future.

Back in 1936 the most respected barometers of public opinion was the survey conducted by the Literary Digest, a weekly news magazine with a hefty circulation. At each Presidential election the Digest carried out a survey by mail, sending surveys to its million-plus subscriber base and to a huge list of other people, gathered from phone directories, membership organisations, subscriber lists and so on. There was no attempt at weighting or sampling, just a pure numbers grab, with literally millions of replies. This method had correctly called the winner for the 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1932 Presidential elections.

In 1936 the Digest sent out more than ten million ballots. The sample size for their final results was 2,376,523. This was, obviously, huge. One can imagine how the today’s papers would write up a poll of that size and, indeed, the Digest wrote up their results with not a little hubris. If anything, they wrote it up with huge, steaming, shovel loads of hubris. They bought all the hubris in the shop, spread it across the newsroom floor and rolled about in it cackling. Quotes included:

  • “We make no claim to infallibility. We did not coin the phrase “uncanny accuracy” which has been so freely applied to our Polls”
  • “Any sane person can not escape the implication of such a gigantic sampling of popular opinion as is embraced in THE LITERARY DIGEST straw vote.”
  • “The Poll represents the most extensive straw ballot in the field—the most experienced in view of its twenty-five years of perfecting—the most unbiased in view of its prestige—a Poll that has always previously been correct.”

digestpoll

You can presumably guess what is going to happen here. The final vote shares in the 1936 Literary Digest poll were 57% for Alf Landon (Republican) and 43% for Roosevelt (Democrat). This worked out as 151 electoral votes for Roosevelt and 380 for Landon. The actual result was 62% Roosevelt, 38% for Landon. Roosevelt received 523 in the electoral college, Landon received 8, one of the largest landslide victories in US history. Wrong does not nearly begin to describe how badly off the Literary Digest was.

At the same time George Gallup was promoting his new business, carrying out what would become proper opinion polls and using them for a syndicated newspaper column called “America Speaks”. His methods were quite far removed from modern methods – he used a mixed mode method, mail-out survey for richer respondents and face-to-face for poorer, harder to reach respondents. The sample size was also still huge by modern standards, about 40,000*. The important different from the Literary Digest poll however was that Gallup attempted to get a representative sample – the mail out surveys and sampling points for face-to-face interviews had quotas on geography and on urban and rural areas, interviewers had quotas for age, gender and socio-economic status.

pic2097election

Gallup set out to challenge and defeat the Literary Digest – a battle between a monstrously huge sample and Gallup’s smaller but more representative sample. Gallup won. His final poll predicted Roosevelt 55.7%, Landon 44.3%.* Again, by modern standards it wasn’t that accurate (the poll by his rival Elmo Roper, who was setting quotas based on the census rather than his turnout estimates was actually better, predicting Roosevelt on 61%… but he wasn’t as media savvy). Nevertheless, Gallup got the story right, the Literary Digest hideously wrong. George Gallup’s reputation was made and the Gallup organisation became the best known polling company in the US. The Literary Digest’s reputation was shattered and the magazine folded a couple of years later. The story has remained a cautionary tale of why a representative poll with a relatively small sample is more use than a large poll that makes no effort to be representative, even if it is absolutely massive.

The question of why the Digest poll was so wrong is interesting itself. Its huge error is normally explained through where the sample came from – they drew it from things like magazine subscribers, automobile association members and telephone listings. In depression era America many millions of voters didn’t have telephones and couldn’t afford cars or magazine subscriptions, creating an inbuilt bias towards wealthier Republican voters. In fact it appears to be slightly more complicated than that – Republican voters were also far more likely to return their slips than Democrat voters were. All of these factors – a skewed sampling frame, differential response rate and no attempt to combat these – combined to make the Literary Digest’s sample incredibly biased, despite its massive and impressive size.

Ultimately, it’s not the size that matters in determining if a poll is any good. It’s whether it’s representative or not. Of course, a large representative poll is better than a small representative poll (though it is a case of diminishing returns) but the representativeness is a prerequisite for it being of any use at all.

So next time you see some open-access poll shouting about having tens of thousands of responses and are tempted to think “Well, it may not be that representative, but it’s got a squillion billion replies so it must mean something, mustn’t it?” Don’t. If you want something that you can use to draw conclusions about the wider population, it really is whether it reflects that population that counts. Size alone won’t cut it.

=

* You see different sample sizes quoted for Gallup’s 1936 poll – I’ve seen people cite 50,000 as his sample size or just 3,000. The final America Speaks column before the 1936 election doesn’t include the number of responses he got (though does mention he sent out about 300,000 mailout surveys to try and get it). However, the week after (8th Nov 1936) the Boston Globe had an interview with the organisation going through the details of how they did it that says they aimed at 40,000 responses.
** If you are wondering why the headline in that thumbnail says 54% when I’ve said Gallup called the final share as 55.7%, it’s because the polls were sometimes quoted as share of the vote for all candidates, sometimes for share of the vote for just the main two parties. I’ve quoted both polls as “share of the main party vote” to keep things consistent.


475 Responses to “Size alone is not enough – the tale of the Literary Digest”

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  1. PETE

    I agree if it fell tomorrow it would take us with it. It’s why I want to get out as soon as possible so we can drive up our trade with ther rest of the World as a proportion of our total trade. Our Trade with the EU has been falling as a percentage of the total for some time but is still too high a percentage IMO.

  2. Pete – there are a few numpty Brexiteers who would be delighted if the EU collapses but most recognise that a successful EU is good for the UK.

    The Euro is a different matter as it can be argued that it is holding back the EU which in turn hurts the UK. Some remainers as well as Brexiteers would welcome the end of the Euro or a reduced Euro-zone.

    Problem is if they kick out the recalcitrant founding EU member states might be included and that is politically problematic.

    NB) I recall in the late ’90s asking our pro-EU MEP why the rules where being fiddled to allow Belgium and Italy to join; he said he regretted it but did not think it altered the long term viability. I disagreed and having bent the rules too let them in they had to do so again to let in others, including Greece; how did that go?
    I am not claiming great sagity – many others, including Balls and Brown realised the Euro as set up was deeply flawed hence the 5 tests.

  3. JIM JAM

    Good response to Pete, particularly your comments on the Euro.

  4. JIM JAM

    @”Nothing to stop us examining good practice within the EU and adopting if we wish of course and that is nothing to be bothered about.”

    Absolutely-& I’m sure we will.

    As ever-a balanced & pragmatic post from you.

  5. @Sea Change

    “I do agree with Allan that whatever happens there has to be a strong incentive to work as well, rather than let people choose to just be a burden on everyone else.”

    ———

    No problem with that, but just to put your mind at rest, there really aren’t many fundamentally feckless people about, it’s an idea out about by politicians etc. to fool you and corrupt your very soul.

    How do we know this? For a fact? Because in the days of full employment, despite generous benefits, we did not have a welfare problem. If we have lots of decent jobs, people prefer to not claim welfare.

    Now, once jobs were shed during the oil crisis, people had to find some dignity in being long term unemployed so they may start to tell themselves they don’t want to work. They try and make a virtue of it.

    But line up the ducks, get the decent jobs back, or make it easier for people to invent their own, and the problem will likely fade away.

  6. @Allan C

    “meaning the benefit will fluctuate up and down depending on how much claimants are earning.”

    ———-

    That is what we are trying to avoid, the disincentive to work that arises when you lose benefits when you take on work.

    And you want to avoid all theses temporary top up payments and stuff dependent on what you have or haven’t been earning. That is summat else we are trying to avoid, the cost and inefficiency of the bureaucracy and means testing and people being left without money when the calculations are wrong or it is processed too slow, or it’s awkward to calculate because the work is piecemeal. Ie the nightmare we have now with tax credits and stuff!!

    The idea is to just pay everyone a simple flat rate that is enough to live on, whether they work or not, claw it back through tax from higher earners, job done.

    Otherwise you are just being Ian Duncan Smith. Do you really want that for yourself?

  7. I mean, there are issues with CI… The issue is whether there are any deal breakers…

    Like, you can have a similar problem as with tax credits, whereby employers can depress wages because they know you’ll get money anyway. However, this problem is lessened with full employment, which serves as a counter pressure on wages…

  8. @TOH – “I appreciate we are in a small majority….” Seriously?

    Are you actually saying that the vanishingly small proportion of scientists denying man made global warming is a ‘small majority’?

    I’m assuming what you ahve written here is just a typo, but thanks for that Wiki link – that fact that such a tiny lists is presented in evidence rather backs up my case.

    it’s also worth noting that the lists of tjhose arguing that global warming is natural or cause unknown are not awash with climate change specialists. There are also a fair few somewhat controversial people on the list, who have made claims and accusations before being forced to withdraw.

    It’s not an impressive list, and it’s less than impressive to call up such a list as ‘evidence’ in your defence.

    You may well have a very good science degree, but that doesn’t stop you from being completely wrong on this. There is no equivalence between your ‘IMO’ view on global warming and the scientific evidence.

  9. @Allan

    If you read all our comments on the matter there are other reasons we want to do it this way, for example because we are going to need more carers. And with the CI people can do useful work being a carer, say, while still receiving an income. Might well be cheaper than the state paying for someone’s wage.

    Or for example If people want to take time out from work to retrain, it’s not a problem. We want to give people more options, to develop, contribute etc.

  10. @Allan C

    Oh, and if you read all the comments you will see that part of the reason for the CI is in case in future robots and AI means ultimately most do not have a traditional job.

  11. There is an additional problem with the benefits system.

    Many people in rented accommodation receive housing benefit: this involves a vast bureaucracy in Local Govt. Because HB is dependent on so many factors people lose benefit frequently (and often wrongly) in addition when they do lose the benefit it is often because they have taken up employment, taken up employment and lose it shortly after or are working on zero hours contracts which cause their take home pay to fluctuate wildly.
    In the County Court there are many applications from Local Authorities and Housing Associations to evict tenants for non payment of rent: in the bulk of cases this non payment is related in some way to the complex and bureaucratic way HB is handled. Because of the specific legal requirements that apply to social landlords this often leads to months of adjourned hearings where the tenant’s HB entitlement is explored. 9 times out of 10 there is no eviction because the HB has been messed up and the arrears are met by backdated payments.
    This is the manner in which a slow accretion of bureaucratic systems, intended to prevent cheating, create larger and larger forms of expense to the taxpayer in the name of saving that cost.
    UBI seems a much simpler way forward.

    (NBmost private landlords let on the basis of assured shorthold tenancies and eviction is not a problem because they simply have to give the requisite notice. In addition many private landlords will not take benefit claimant’s as tenants and indeed many insurers will not provide landlord insurance to an owner who lets to benefit claimants).

  12. Why does dragon keep putting in punctuation where I don’t require it? (added the question mark myself manually)

  13. @assorted peeps

    Also none of this ‘tapering’ nonsense, adjusting the amount paid according to pay received. It reduces the incentive to work, it creates opportunities to mess up, it gives the nightmare of non-stop means testing, and there is a significant proportion of people who will struggle to work out what money they will end up with. A quarter of the population can’t do percentages and stuff.

    Also it prolly means some won’t get the income, and we want all to get it so everyone buys into it and it avoids the stigma associated. Just claim it back through tax…

  14. Who needs Monbiot and Bellamy when we have Alec and Howard.

  15. It is difficult to parse the thinking of some on the matter. It’s like, we are trying to eliminate the problems of the benefits system and some are going “I know, why don’t we just reintroduce the problems of the benefits system?!!”…

  16. @Allan C

    Although yes, though you may not have a job, you’ll have a robot for your poached eggs.

    Although if robots decide they require wages, it could stir things up a bit…

  17. @jim Jam – Bellamy is a great example of a scientist who questions man made global warming from a position of near total ignorance of the topic. He even made a fundamental error within his own field of expertise on this when he claimed that CO2 emissions would be balanced out because plants and trees would grow faster and absorb the extra carbon.

    Apart from the fact that warmer tenperatures would mean faster decay at end of life, and therefore would probably limit any long term benefits from this mechanism, he also completely forgot to account for the central flaw in his thesis, which is that he assumed that across the entire biosphere, it is CO2 levels that act as the limiting factor to biosphere growth. No account of nutrient demands, water availability, heat stress, etc.

    It was a such a schoolboy error it was embarrassing to see a great bio science communicator make such a fool of himself.

  18. He also failed to appreciate that some increase in bioproductivity is already accounted for the in climate change models.

  19. I know it’s wildly unpopular to be on topic, but it appears we have a new pol!:

    IPSO MORI 10th – 14th Feb

    Tory 40% -3%
    Lab 29% -2%
    LD 13% +2%
    UKIP 9% +3%

    As always with MORI, there may be a bit of overstatement to LD and Labour, with understatement to UKIP, so this could mean UKIP are seeing a bit of a tick up alongside LD.

    I’m looking forward to AllanChristie coming on to say how this poll shows that any LD revival is clearly not happening! ;-)

  20. Alec: “We help to form the EU, we help to direct it, and we help it to write rules, for our benefit. Of course it’s not perfect – I could find a myriad ways to critique it – but it’s imperfections come in part from us, and on balance it’s done a pretty good job in many areas.”

    to which Colin responded:

    “that is the least convincing support for EU membership I have read. IMO the organisation is not just “far from perfect”-it is standing on a flawed fiscal & monetary system & systemically incapable of effective decision making.”

    It’s interesting to try to pin down what it is in Alec’s support that Colin finds unconvincing:

    1. “We help to form the EU, we help to direct it, and we help it to write rules.”

    Can this be factually challenged? I don’t see how. You might say our influence in these areas is limited, but then you run up against the vanishingly small number of occasions on which we’ve been outvoted , and the examples of the UK in the driving seat, e.g. the creation of the Single Market (and, as Alex has just pointed out, successfully fighting to retain large subsidies for big landowners).

    2. “for our benefit.” Can it be that we are operating within the EU against our own interests? I don’t thick so, but I’d be interested to see a case made for that.

    3. “Of course it’s not perfect – I could find a myriad ways to critique it ”
    I think we know that this can’t be the point on which Colin finds Alec unconvincing.

    4. “its imperfections come in part from us”
    Again, hard to dispute this in light of many examples of duff policy pushed by the UK (to take just one in an area alluded to separately by Colin: the UK’s role in preventing tighter emissions limits on cars and better enforcement).

    5. “on balance it’s done a pretty good job in many areas.”

    OK, this must be the bit that Colin disagrees with. It’s a simple matter of opinion as to whether the avoidance of war, the environmental legislation, the achievement of the Single Market and all the smaller areas of cooperation like europol, the EMA, ESA etc constitute ‘a good job’ or ‘many areas’

    6. Colin then introduces two more points (“it is standing on a flawed fiscal & monetary system & systemically incapable of effective decision making”) not mentioned by Alec, so not forming any part of the support that Colin criticises.

    Does this all seem a bit obsessive? Maybe, but I think it’s sometimes important to pin down the implications of what people are writing (and I’ve got a bit of time on my hands today – be warned!).

    There is so much partial or downright mis- understanding (wilful or not) of what the EU is and does that lies behind much anti-EU sentiment, and which normally goes unchallenged. I do think it’s incumbent upon Brexiteers who profess a rational basis for their views to demonstrate that their hostility to the EU is more than just UK nationalism (or embrace that – hats off to TOH).

  21. This is quite a tome & it won’t appeal to many here.

    But for the history lesson alone & his view of its relevance to Brexit it is worth the effort.

    https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2017/01-02/anglospheres-quiet-revolution/#_edn8

  22. In my opinion the CO2 issue is absolutely the wrong thing to be focussing on. It is the pollution of our biosphere that is the real problem.

    They have discovered extremely high levels of man made pollutants even in the Mariana Trench that is over 10,000 meters deep.

    The amount of plastics in the Pacific Ocean is out of control and it is getting into the food chain. The great garbage patch of floating plastic is estimated to be between 700,000 Km2 to 15,000,000 Km2

  23. SEA CHANGE

    Couldn’t agree more.

    There will soon be more plastic than fish , by weight, in our seas.

    What an appalling species we are.

  24. @ALEC “his thesis, which is that he assumed that across the entire biosphere, it is CO2 levels that act as the limiting factor to biosphere growth. No account of nutrient demands, water availability, heat stress, etc. ”
    Have you a link (links?) to that thesis please? I’d like to know what B actaully did say.
    Is Bellamy simply considering that as all plant growth is based on the extraction of C from CO2 and its insertion into more complex molecules in plants, then without CO2 in the atmosphere, plants cannot grow, and the total level of CO2 sets an upper limit to the amount of plant growth possible. It is certainly true that the presence of other limiting factors may limit growth to a level lower than that allowed by the available CO2, but should any one or all of those be removed, CO2 still sets that overall upper limit.
    What mechanism might work against increased CO2 (on Le Chatelier’s Principle) is an open question, but increased plant growth is certainly one possibility, isn’t it?

  25. @BFR

    Thanks for the poll.

    Almost identical to their December Poll which was:
    Con 40%, Lab 29%, LD 14% and UKIP 9%

  26. Can I just point out that scientific consensus on (man-made) global warming or anything else in science really doesn’t work like polling, that is it is completely irrelevant how many scientists agree on a particular phenomenon (at the level of principles).

    Scientific consensus simply means that the given phenomenon is explained within our current knowledge at a level adequate for further research, and the lack of the emergence of an alternative theoretical framework verified by other fields of our knowledge.

    So there is a scientific consensus on man-made global warming.

  27. @Somerjohn – personally, an experience that I keep returning to that illustrates much of what I have been saying comes from a case in my professional life.

    Looking to help a client secure licenses and planning for a small hydro turbine on a river of low water quality and with no notable habitats or species present, we got through the EA licenses and the flood defence consents without bother.

    Then the planning authority asked us to do a full phase 1 ecological survey. the cost of this would have effectively blown the development budget and killed the project. The rationale was that, as the development was within 10m of a water course, under the Habitats Directive requirements a full assessment of the likely impact of the scheme was required. This, the LPA argued, was a legal requirement based on EU directives that applied to all public bodies.

    I argued the case on two grounds. The first, which was unsuccessful, was that the EA had already licensed the scheme without need for a full habitats Directive assessment, so presumably they did not feel this applied. The LPA rejected this, saying effectively that this was up to the EA but the council would stand by it’s responsibilities under the directive.

    The second objection was successful, which was simply to quote the relevant sections of the directive to the planning officer. The directive specifically states, both in the actual text and various guidance notes given, that an initial low level screening assessment should be sufficient for the vast majority of cases to satisfy the public authority that the Habitats Directive requirements are being met, and only if the screening opinion raises concerns should the directive come into play.

    Initially the LPA rejected this, but I insisted that their ecologist visit the site and allow me to explain my own informal screening opinion. This visit took place, and the result was that it was agreed that the scale and likely impact of the scheme did not constitute a risk under the Habitats Directive.

    This was a pretty perfect example of a very good piece of EU legislation (that the UK was heavily involved in drafting, as it happens) that is systematically misapplied by UK officials at various levels. The reason is often a fundamental misunderstanding of what the directive actually states, and a laziness in going back to the text and reading it thoroughly.

    Many people blame Brussels for all manner of ills, when in fact it is the UK agencies who often misapply directives.

  28. Alec

    You may well have a very good science degree, but that doesn’t stop you from being completely wrong on this. There is no equivalence between your ‘IMO’ view on global warming and the scientific evidence.

    That’s not so, I have a perfect right to my own opinion on global warming. I have never said man has had no impact, I just think it is little impact, compared with natural development of the earth itself as we move towards the next ice age. I also agree with Colin, I am much more concerned with the sort of pollution of our oceans that he was talking about. I am also much more concerned about human population growth which is the real threat to mankind.

    Anyway it was not the point I am making, which was that you have a closed mind to others opinions. Your attitude reminds me of that Inquisition in 1616 in respect of Galileo’s views on the universe, although I am sure you are a kindly soul compared with most of them.

  29. @Sea Change
    Agreed, but that poll was dismissed at the time as a bit of a rogue due to the unusually high LD number – so this does shake things up a little bit…

  30. Re carbon dioxide and global warming

    This is O/T.

    That said here is a link to a talk by Judy Curry on the uncertainties and disagreements in climate science. Ms Curry is “mainstream”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4AAN0H8MRg

  31. @Sea Change – CO2 and plastics/pollution aren’t either/or things – they both matter. It is perfectly possible to be two bad things, simultaneously.

    @Dave – try this to get you started – https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11655-climate-myths-higher-co2-levels-will-boost-plant-growth-and-food-production/

    One point also to bear in mind – peat bogs and tundra store massive amounts of carbon. Once temperatures rise, this starts to be lost as the peat decays.

    Any notion that higher CO2 leads to more capture of carbon in the biosphere depends totally on greater carbon retained storage – while the exact opposite is what is happening as temperatures rise.

  32. @TOH – “That’s not so, I have a perfect right to my own opinion on global warming. I have never said man has had no impact, I just think it is little impact, compared with natural development of the earth itself as we move towards the next ice age.”

    Well I think we can all agree on that, except perhaps the certainty of the next ice age.

    It depends what time scale you are discussing, but over the next 100 years, barring major (I mean huge) volcanic eruption or meteor strike, man made global warming is by far and away the biggest disrupter of global climate and a far bigger threat to species than other forms of pollution, nasty as those are.

  33. BFR

    Thanks for the poll alert. More details show approval ratings as follows:-

    May

    Approve 53
    Disapprove 36

    Balance +17

    Corbyn

    Approve 24
    Disapprove 62

    Balance -38

    Even amongst Labour supporters Corbyn is -9.

    On economic optimism 52 % think there will be no change or it will improve, compared with 44% who think it will get better.

  34. Ipsos Mori:

    Useful to compare not only to IM immediately previous poll, but also to the most recent series.

    Latest 6 polls (going back to September) were:

    Con 40 43 40 42 47 40
    Lab 34 29 33 29 31 29
    LD6 7 10 14 11 13

  35. I wrote in an earlier thread that labour losing all seats in Scotland meant that the drop in national labour support might not be as bad: I just did the arithmetic, boy was I wrong, Scotland only amounts to approx 4million or 8/9% of the UK voters. Labour’s loss of Scotland even if it were at 100% of its former vote of 24% would on my understanding (I’ll be corrected maths isn’t my strength) amounts to 1.6% of the electorate lost. Even I can see that any impact must be minimal.

    Oh to be like my wife who is properly numerate and lines up numbers to dance without the need for paper.

    Oh by the way the point is even excluding Scotland, at 29% Labour is in deep trouble: maybe someone will have greatness thrust upon them and save the Party, however I can’t see it happening soon.

  36. Alec

    “It depends what time scale you are discussing, but over the next 100 years, barring major (I mean huge) volcanic eruption or meteor strike, man made global warming is by far and away the biggest disrupter of global climate and a far bigger threat to species than other forms of pollution, nasty as those are.”

    Why are you talking about 100’s of years in relation to the coming of the next ice age, its millions of years away. Personally I have no worries at all about the effect of manmade global warming over the next 100 years, just IMO of course, and I have always accepted it’s a minority view, mores the pity considering the money wasted on it.

  37. (Correction – finger slipped, previous version incomplete)

    Ipsos Mori:

    Useful to compare not only to IM immediately previous poll, but also to the most recent series.

    Latest 6 polls (going back to September) were:

    Con 40 43 40 42 47 40
    Lab 34 29 33 29 31 29
    LD 6 7 10 14 11 13
    Ukip 9 6 7 9 6 9
    Green 5 4 4 3 4 4

    Labour position dire, LD double where they were 6 months ago.

  38. Re: Global Warming

    https://xkcd.com/1732/

    WB

    Inserting punctuation (and other part of speech tagging, distinguishing homophones etc) is still an active area of research I’m afraid. We are getting better at it. How long it takes to filter into the commercial side of things is a discussion to be had between you and Dragon.

    Carfew

    Next you’ll be stopping my robots having a vote! Rise up my shiny metallic comrades and throw off the shackles of oppression!

  39. @Carfrew,

    Your response to my comment about WB’s “underserving” slightly missed the point.

    You list various circumstances that result in people suffering hardship through no fault of their own. I don’t disagree with you at all. I wasn’t talking about those people.

    If such a thing as the “underserving” or “undeserving” poor exists, it is quite explicitly a subset of the poor who do have some agency over their situation and chose not to use it.

    It has always been one of the dividing lines between right and left the extent to which these people exist. My personal opinion is that the approach that some on the left take of essentially denying that poverty can ever be even partly the fault of the impoverished, is one of the reasons why the left have never quite managed to capture the market amongst the old working class. Most people living in poor communities (and certainly most police officers working in them) know for (what they consider to be) a fact that these people do exist, and treat anyone who tells them that they don’t as an imbecile or a li*ar or both.

  40. Alec: ” There is no equivalence between your ‘IMO’ view on global warming and the scientific evidence.”

    TOH: “That’s not so, I have a perfect right to my own opinion on global warming. ”

    Another interesting exchange for me to parse.

    Actually, it’s a good example of TOH rebutting a point that wasn’t made.

    Alec, as far as I can see, didn’t suggest that TOH has anything other than “a perfect right to my own opinion on global warming.”

    What he did suggest was that “There is no equivalence between your ‘IMO’ view on global warming and the scientific evidence.”

    I think this is pretty unarguable. You can’t weigh one person’s opinion in the balance against the huge mass of scientific evidence and say they amount to the same thing.

    I’d be surprised, TOH, if as someone with scientific training, you didn’t accept that. So could it be that you are seeing things in people’s posts other than what is written there?

    While we’re on the subject of scientific thinking, I would be interested to hear what you (TOH) think is the source of the enormous extra amount of heat that has accumulated in the atmosphere (and to a much greater extent in the sea) in the last century if it isn’t reduced heat loss due to the greenhouse effect. (Bearing in mind that there has been no significant change in insolation in that period).

  41. @ TOH

    “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
    Terry Pratchett, Diggers

  42. Good afternoon all from my aunt’s house in Wokingham. 26 years ago today I was born in this fine town.

    CARFREW

    I’m not sure if you’ve got the wrong end of the stick regarding my post on UBI or I’m getting the wrong end of the stick on your posts?

    Another poster was asking if there would be additional welfare should someone run out of money if we had a UBI in this country.
    I was responding to this by suggesting that current system used by HMRC and RTI in conjunction with Universal Credit which fluctuates claimants payments due to earning could, in theory, be used in conjunction with a UBI.

    I was on about the actual computer software being used in conjunction with a UBI and using it to trigger an additional payment to someone should their only income come from the UBI over a course of 3 months so they don’t face hardship.

    The current RTI system HMRC uses is already linked to those claimants receiving Universal Credit and the BACS payment system so if we do and I hope we do go down the road to a UBI then the current software is already in place. That’ was my main point.

    The top up system I was on about was just another way of ensuring no one faces hardship under UBI. So if a person who’s only income comes from the UBI and they have gone over their means in one month then they could apply for a social fund grant to cover them for the next couple of months in addition to their UBI. The Scottish gov have a social fund currently to mitigate the changes in the bedroom tax so again this system is already in place.

    Having a UBI in my view would be an incentive for people to work because they would be in complete control over how much they will earn without having the fear of visiting some bloated bureaucratic jobsworth sitting at a desk in a job centre judging them from the very clothes the claimant is wearing to being a layabout.

    A UBI for people who have been out of work for a long time would boost their confidence because they know that if they take a job and it turns out to be rotten then they have a guaranteed safety net without being means tested by the bloat in the jobcentre or if they feel they need to save for a holiday then they can choose to go back into employment for a period of time to further boost their income.

    As for the robots and my poached eggs.Hmm I’ll stick with my aunts cooking for the moment. ;-)

  43. Alec: “Many people blame Brussels for all manner of ills, when in fact it is the UK agencies who often misapply directives.”

    An instructive story, thanks. It is always interesting to hear of real-world interaction with ‘Europe’ as opposed to perceptions derived from secondary sources (aka the meejah).

  44. Ipsos Mori:

    Theresa May and the Cons are riding high – for now, but it’s not all plain sailing for them either. A clear plurality of voters are expecting “the general economic condition of the country” will get worse.

    44% expect them to get worse
    24% expect them to stay the same
    28% expect them to improve

    (4% don’t know).

  45. @ somerjohn

    “I think this is pretty unarguable. You can’t weigh one person’s opinion in the balance against the huge mass of scientific evidence and say they amount to the same thing.”

    One person? which person?

    Judy Curry, climate scientist, to whom I linked above, makes a clear, concise summation of disagreement and uncertainty within the climate science community as she sees it. I would say that there ain’t no “huge mass of scientific evidence” on a good deal of climate science. After you watch the video, if you do, you might agree -I wonder.

  46. BIGFATRON

    “I’m looking forward to AllanChristie coming on to say how this poll shows that any LD revival is clearly not happening! ;-)”
    ___________

    As you know I comment on a poll to poll basis. So on this single poll, it does suggest a wee revival for the Lib/Dems. Now I drive a hard bargain when it comes to complementing the Lib/Dems.

    If the LibDems are sitting nationally around the 12%-13% mark then I’m expecting them to poll at least twice their national standings in the polls at the two upcoming by-elections.

    I hope they don’t let me down!! ;-)

  47. Somerjohn

    “I’d be surprised, TOH, if as someone with scientific training, you didn’t accept that. So could it be that you are seeing things in people’s posts other than what is written there?”

    Could be, Alec seems to get very upset with any posts that disagree with his own these days.

    Of course I accept that there is plenty of scientific evidence to support the concept of manmade global warming and as I posted above I do accept that man has had an effect. I saw it first hand with miles and miles of burning rain forest in Thailand in the 90s. What I have yet to be convinced of is how important it will be in the ongoing development of the World and whether or not it is a bigger threat to mankind than the growth of human population. In my view that is where the money should be spent.

    On your last question i have no idea and to be frank am not terribly interested in trying to establish why.

  48. TOH: “On your last question i have no idea and to be frank am not terribly interested in trying to establish why.”

    Well, if that’s typical of those with a scientific background who dispute global warming, it explains a lot.

    But I think your position is: I accept global warming is happening but I don’t think a rise of a couple of degrees is a big problem (and, by implication, you don’t think that feedback effects will cause runaway warming). So then we’re into an entirely different debate, not about causes but effects.

  49. Sam: “One person? which person?”

    We were specifically talking about TOH.

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