PERCEPTION & REALITY: Watching the researchers say the People have got it wrong when it’s the researchers who’ve got it wrong.

arabrestitleWe should never be beaten down by social or consumer/voting research. There are three important factors when it comes to such research: interpretation, interpretation, and interpretation.

Ipsos Mori currently has a page on its website claiming to reveal ‘the top 10 things we get wrong’. That’s to say, we think one thing…but empirically, we’re mistaken. A great deal of potty social policy is excused on this spurious basis. I shall now attempt to illustrate this by use of the interpretations from Ipsos Mori.

#1: ‘Crime: 58% do not believe that crime is falling, when the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that incidents of crime were 19% lower in 2012 than in 2006/07 and 53% lower than in 1995.  51% think violent crime is rising, when it has fallen from almost 2.5 million incidents in 2006/07 to under 2 million in 2012.’

The England & Wales crime survey can ‘show’ WTF it likes, but (a) crime stats prepared by the police are hopelessy compromised, (b) they often don’t record crime they know the CPS won’t prosecute, and (c) crime has moved dramatically away from the physical and into the virtual: the fact is, 80+% of the time, Plod doesn’t even detect such crime.

#2: ‘Benefit fraud: people estimate that 34 times more benefit money is claimed fraudulently than official estimates: the public think that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is claimed fraudulently, compared with official estimates of £0.70 per £100.

Classic case this of saying “official estimates” are right, and the average person’s observation is wrong. Look at how they got to the official estimates regarding the HS2 project: look at how wrong they were.

#3: ‘Religion: we greatly overestimate the proportion of the population who are Muslims: on average we say 24%, compared with 5% in England and Wales.  And we underestimate the proportion of Christians: we estimate 34% on average, compared with the actual proportion of 59% in England and Wales’.

This conclusion completely ignores the radically different levels of observance between Islamics and Christians in the UK. In fact, if you audit these two religions by visits to Mosque or Church, Islam is now the most enthusiastically followed religion in Britain. 3 out of 5 people when polled may well think of themselves as Christians, and yet attend mainly births, marriages and funerals. This is important when one wishes to gauge the degree of commitment and influence between the two religions: whereas the CofE is in real terms heading towards extinction, Islam is a rapidly growing religious form of great appeal to the poor.

I wish it were not so, but it gets worse when such superficial findings are then handed on to politicians: for they add selective perception and preconceived bigotry to what is already something of a witch’s brew.

Many a shibolleth is the direct result of one bad research study analysis thirty years previously. “Research shows” as a rationale is without doubt one of the greatest oxymorons on Earth.

Earlier at The Slog: When systemic paedophilia can’t be explained away