Sigh… Rob has put up a post about my analysis being ‘wrong’.
“Here is why I think they are both wrong.”
With respect, here is why Rob’s reasoning that we are ‘both wrong’ is poorly constructed.
“1. 25.8% of people did not vote in the last election, but only 8.2% of the population admitted it in the survey Grumpollie was using. That’s a very big discrepancy.”
Yes it is, and that is one of the reasons why I said “There are a bunch of caveats to this analysis, including the small sample size and how representative the sample of non-voters was.” Also, it is extremely hard to solicit participation from non-voters in a survey about voting. Having worked on the post-election survey twice, I can attest to this. The discrepancy is not that unusual. Sample bias among the non-voters is more important than their level of response.
“2. There is a long-standing tradition to lying to pollsters about whether you voted. It is based on “social desirability bias.” And the people most susceptible to it, people who often do vote and are embarrassed that they did not in 2011, are also in my view among the most likely to have voted for Labour in 2008.”
There is a difference between lying and forgetting. Rob has clearly read some social psychology papers. However, there is a considerable body of research in cognitive psychology showing that people forget events very easily, including events they claim to remember ‘as clear as day’. If people don’t accurately report their vote at the previous election, it’s not fair to assume they were all lying.
“3. The analysis, and David Farrar’s conclusion, is based on the idea that Labour will go hunting for non voters randomly around the country, convincing non-voters in the bluest parts of Clutha-Southland to vote just as much as we do in Labour stronghold areas. We are a bit smarter than that.”
My analysis was based on no such thing. No mention of the Labour party was made in my post, and I would not assume for a second that Labour were silly enough to be using up valuable resources trying to target non-voters in National strongholds. The post was calling into question the assumption I’ve seen made that most non-voters would vote Labour. When people say things like ‘we just need to get that 800,000 out to vote’ or ‘if even a portion of that 800,000 get out to vote we will see a change of government’, that’s the assumption they’re making (or at least helping to reinforce).
Even though the sample is very small and there are a bunch of caveats, the results (at the very least) call that assumption into question.
What these people could be saying instead is ‘We need to focus on the needs of the people in areas with higher deprivation, show them how we can make a difference in their lives and give them a better chance, and encourage them to get out and vote.’
Because I know people will make assumptions about my political leanings based on this and Rob’s post, I’d like to reiterate that I’m a left-of-center voter. I voted for National once, when I was 18 or 19, but have not voted in that direction since. There’s more about why in the ‘about‘ page.
UPDATE 6/4/14: Added a link to a Stuff.co.nz article reporting on assumptions about the 800,000.