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What is 'lying with statistics. SOCRMx

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017, 19:46

I chose to look at this Reuters report:

Voter belief in Brexit negotiations fades

A new poll shows British voters are unhappy with the current state of Brexit negotiations, and sceptical whether leaving the EU will improve the country.

ReutersNOVEMBER 8, 20174:31AM

A record majority of Britons disapprove of Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of Brexit talks and are increasingly sceptical that leaving the EU will make the country better off, an opinion poll shows.

ORB International said 66 per cent of people disapproved of the government's conduct of the negotiations, up from 64 per cent last month.

The poll also showed only 27 per cent were confident that May will get the right deal, compared with 47 per cent who were not confident.

Trust in May's handling of Brexit has evaporated since she gambled away her parliamentary majority in an election in June.

With only 17 months left until Britain is due to exit the European Union, the lack of clear progress in the negotiations has raised fears of an abrupt departure with no transition that businesses say they need.

For the first time, more Britons disagreed that Brexit will help the economy than agreed, ORB said.

"There is no sign that the prime minister is beginning to turn things around when it comes to Brexit," ORB said in a statement. "Overall these poll findings provide little encouragement for a prime minister facing multiple battles."

As well as trying to breath life into Brexit talks, May is dealing with a growing sexual harassment scandal in Britain's parliament. Without an overall majority, May cannot afford to lose parliamentary seats.

Businesses have expressed alarm at the progress of Brexit talks.

On Monday, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply said nearly two-thirds of European businesses planned to cut back orders from British suppliers.

Last month finance minister Philip Hammond said a transition deal needed to be struck by early 2018.

ORB surveyed 2044 people in an online poll between November 3 and November 5.

I think the issues here relating to distortion may be more to do with the discursive shifts in this article than the statistical evidence, however it is clear that the report itself is based on one very simple statistic.

For the first time, more Britons disagreed that Brexit will help the economy than agreed, ORB said.

All we can discern from this is that in an answers to questions whose content is reported only in indirect speech (and therefore makes no truth claims) more people agreed with the basic statement than disagreed. That this was for the 'first time' would depend on a use of this question in a longitudinal study, but this is not a longitudinal study.

It concerns what appears to be an opportunity sample (although we have not enough data to say) recruited over 2 days. We do not know if the same (or even other samples) were asked exactly the same question to justify the claim that the distribution of answers was thus 'for the first time'. Even had other samples produced different results the results would be questionable since not easily comparable given that sample size, internal constitution and means of recruitment may differ considerably. There is no guarantee of random sampling at any point, given that the sample is (compared to the population to which it is generalised) very small.

The problem with this reported survey is that I want it to be correct - it says what I want it to say but that in itself raises the issue of sampling reliability. We need also to see what was happening between 3 - 5 November because opinions may fluctuate at times of increased publicity for an issue. 

In a flat sense, this ONE poll appears to be different from other polls in its descriptive results but we cannot say why nor overly interpret its meaning or the causation of any perceived change - since it is not evidence enough for any change.

All the best


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