Not about ‘The impact of Labour’s GOTV efforts’

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.’

Extra note:

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.

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3 thoughts on “Not about ‘The impact of Labour’s GOTV efforts’

  1. Well, I’m glad you’re at least now getting a bit of recognition for your analysis, grumpollie. I came to your NZES 2008 / 11 non-vote analysis via your comment on The Daily Blog a few weeks ago. And I felt you deserved far more recognition for your efforts than you’ve received. There’s been a lot of focus on various analyses by Rob and by UMR’s Gavin White. They certainly both deserve a few plaudits (particularly White for his extensive analysis of the final round of polls in 1999, 02, 05, 08 and 2011). But you went to a good deal of trouble to highlight some very surprising results on an issue vitally important to those of us on the Left.

    Without SPSS, I’ve been unable to obtain the NZES results for the last few elections, so it was fascinating to see non-voters preferences in 2011 (and how they quite starky contrasted with 2008). Although I also take into account aspects of Rob’s critique.

    In the very near future on the Standard, I’ll be posting some of my own detailed analysis of the way support for the Right Bloc as a whole has been consistently over-stated (month after month) in the 18 months leading up to both the 2008 and 2011 elections. I’ve already done this on the Standard for National’s poll support specifically (which probably, in turn, influenced some of Gavin White’s comments in his recent and quite influential RNZ Mediawatch appearance), but now I want to broaden the analysis out a bit more and say something about where I think the two Blocs are at the moment.

    Too many journalists are getting polling trends hopelessly wrong.

    1. Thanks for your comment. When I ran that analysis I was just mucking around really. The sample of non-voters was so small and I don’t know much about it’s quality. In my view the analysis doesn’t do much more than put silly statements about ‘the 800,000’ in question. As I said in another post today, all survey data are flawed. That doesn’t mean all survey data are useless.

      I think Rob was reading more into the post than I was trying to convey, or perhaps it’s just that DPF’s conclusion annoyed him. Whatever… My blog has been quiet for a while so it was nice to be able to write a few posts in one day. 🙂

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