People who set up surveys are always very cagey about what they actually want to know. They ask you all sorts of related questions (sometimes the same one twice) to catch you up and find out what you really think, not what you think you think, if you get my drift. We accept this, usually. However, clever surveyors can use the same techniques get the results they want, not what the public wants to say.
I have opined recently that perhaps the Liberals have a hidden agenda in their approach to Electoral Reform. The online survey they are offering this month gives us an ideal source to find out what they really want, if only we could interpret it. But it’s difficult, because it’s such an absurd document.
Wait a minute. Absurd! What if we use the skills of literary criticism to dissect the survey like a Pinter play? Sure enough, now that we use the right tools, we come out with some interesting results:
From a Scientific Viewpoint
A great weakness in this survey, scientifically, is that it is often makes statements, many of them negative, about the factors it questions. For all those questions, the statistical results are suspect. Questions like, “Do you want the right to choose this meal, even if it is poisoned,” (My boldface for emphasis) don’t get statistically useful, clear answers. But what if the surveyors don’t want clear answers? What if they are trying to feed information out, not take it it?
For example, here are some questions respondents are asked, with critical analysis of what they mean.
(The V means the “Values” section, which had a 5-part answer: Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Neutral, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree. The P means “Preferences” which gives only two choices for an answer.)
V-8. Canadians should have the option to cast their ballot online in federal elections, even if this increases the cost of elections.
V-12. Canadians should have the option to cast their vote online in federal elections, even if it is less secure.
P-6. Canadians should have the option to cast their ballots online in federal elections, even if the security or privacy of online voting cannot be guaranteed OR Canadians should continue to vote using paper ballots at a polling station, even if it is less accessible for some voters?
V-7. Online voting in federal elections would increase voter participation.
Without the boldface, these all ask the same question (except V-7, which by its very presence makes a statement).
With the boldface in, we get The Message: Online voting costs more, is less secure, takes longer and is a questionable way to increase voter turnout.
The Conclusion: The Liberals do not want online voting. Are they afraid the NDP will steal all the in-touch young voters?
Multiple Preference Ballot
V-9. Voters should be able to express multiple preferences on the ballot, even if this means that it takes longer to count the ballots and announce the election result.
P-3. Ballots should be as simple as possible so that everybody understands how to vote OR ballots should allow everybody to express their preferences in detail?
I couldn’t answer P-3, because I don’t believe in either extreme. This one should not be an either/or question. So why is it placed this way? Because if you force people to choose an extreme, the answers you get will be extreme, with no chance for Canadians, in their dear Canadian way, to suggest a compromise. See the extreme results of the “Ballot Simplicity” graph below. Magicians call this a “force,” where the victim thinks he made a choice, but the magician actually controlled the results.
The Message: multiple preference ballots take longer to count, are difficult to understand and the country is deeply divided on whether they should be used.
The Conclusion: Liberals do not want multiple preference ballots.
Majority or Minority Governments (This topic is never mentioned)
V- 16 It is better for several parties to have to govern together than for one party to make all the decisions in government, even if it takes longer for government to get things done
V- 14 Governments should have to negotiate their policy decisions with other parties in Parliament, even if it is less clear who is accountable for the resulting policy.
V-4 A party that wins the most seats in an election should still have to compromise with other parties, even if it means reconsidering some of its policies.
Once again, without the boldface, all ask the same question.
The Message: if the elected party has to negotiate their decisions, they will have to water down their policies, accountability will drop and it will take longer.
The Conclusion: The Liberals don’t want more minority governments. Well, Duh!
Last and Worst Duplicity:
There are a whole lot of questions (V-1, V-13, V-15 , V-17, P-1, P-2, P-8, P-20,) concerning whether Canadians would like more minority governments (see above). But in most cases the concept of minority government is tied with “Shared Accountability.” Example:
V-17. It should always be clear which party is accountable for decisions made by government, even if this means that decisions are only made by one party.
They are talking about majority governments here, but when they publish the results, there is absolutely nothing to show Canadians’ opinions on minority governments, or on shared decision making. It’s all about Accountability. Nice deke, guys.
This is the only useful thing about the survey. It makes it worthwhile going through the motions, just to find out how Canadians feel about certain things. It is unfortunate that Canadians have to complete the survey to get the information given at the end, especially the analysis of the different voting systems written by Samara Canada. This is the first time I have seen such an analysis readily available to the public, which tells you how backwards this process is.
Canadians show a definite swing towards “Shared Accountability,” but that doesn’t sound important. Canadians aren’t especially anxious to point fingers and assign blame. And that’s exactly what the Liberals want us to believe, because all the questions about Accountability were tied to Shared or Unilateral Decision-Making, which discusses more minority governments. But they don’t want us to know that the most Canadians consider majority governments to be undemocratic. If you called that section “Shared Decision-Making,” you might find the graph more powerful. Canadians don’t like dictators, especially ones that were elected by 40% of those who voted. That’s why we want the system changed. And that’s why the Liberals don’t want to change it.
Note the huge gap in the middle. This fairly useless data was created because the question is in the wrong section of the survey. It should be a five-part graduated answer, not an either/or.
So if we apply literary analysis to this survey, we find a Pinteresque absurdity of questions, filled with the most Orwellian of politspeak, with a completely different purpose than that which the government lets on.
I think the survey clearly shows that the Canadian public would much rather have a minority government than give power to a party with such Machiavellian cynicism towards their constituents.
Perhaps, given the above evidence, the voters will see fit to make that minority happen, no matter what voting system the Liberals choose for us.