LibLink: Mark Pack – The Graph May Be Boring; The Political Message Isn’t

Over at the Huffington Post, the Voice’s Mark Pack has a post examining some interesting – and surprising – polling data, complete with a graph (don’t say Mark doesn’t spoil you).

Here’s Mark explaining what the graph shows:

It comes from polling carried out by MORI, asking the same question over the years: “How interested would you say you are in politics?” The graph shows how many people gave one of the two positive answers (“very” or “fairly”) – and so also shows how the public’s interest in politics has been pretty consistent, at a high level. (You can get the full data here.)

Yet follow political coverage about British politics, and you would easily be forgiven for thinking that such as graph would show a consistent long term fall, for the state of politics is usually described as being one of falling public interest. Moreover, turnout in general elections did fall, hitting a low point in 2001 and since recovering – but not to previous levels – which makes this standard picture understandable even if, as the graph shows, it is also wrong.

Head over to the Huffington Post to see the post – and graph – in full.

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  • Like many polls it is fairly meaningless. It doesn’t measure how interested people are in politics it simply records what people say when asked the question. Not the same thing. I imagine lots of people think that politics is something they should be interested in whether they are or not and will respond accordingly. Also I wonder how useful it is to try to measure ‘interest’. It’s a wishy-washy word which doesn’t really tell you very much.

  • Daniel Henry 27th Nov '11 - 4:48am

    The values on that graph are lower than the election turnouts. The graph barely goes above 60%.

  • Nigel Quinton 28th Nov '11 - 12:06am

    More daft use of statistics. A couple of observations:

    It is hard to see how any of the variation is statistically meaningful.

    But have a look at the relation between responses in the “Not at all” interested category, which at first sight might look a little more significant – if in the opposite sense that Mark argues. These seem to show a step change from 11 to 19% between 1991 and 2005, to a consistent 17 to 19% since 2005. But then look at the result dependent on proximity to a general election. Surprise surprise, apparent indifference in politics reduces when a general election is held – see data points for 97, 2001, 2005 – all 11%. Oh, but 2010 does not show the same pattern – well that might be because the poll was carried out in December 2010, not April or May.

    So sorry, Mark, but this is a totally spurious data set on which to base your thesis.

  • peter tyzack 28th Nov '11 - 10:24am

    it always amuses me how often you hear people say they are not interested in politics and then go on about the bins, the buses, elder care, and all the other issues that ‘something should be done ‘ about..

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