tobold.org

correct • elegant • free

△ uk.politics △

◅ uk.politics Vote on Cannabis legalisation?

Letter to my MP about Drugs and Censorship ▻

uk.politics Vote on Cannabis legalisation?

In article <4jlu4r$mtg@sol.zynet.net>,
Ser Olmy <simon@timeslip.zynet.co.uk> wrote:
>Hang on, why is it a stupid idea?

Because it's a lot of time and effort to obtain a result which is
almost totally meaningless.  You might as well make something up.

    76.92% of uk.politics readers support the legalization of cannabis.

There you go; now what?

>                                   Why is the sample self-selecting for cannabis
>votes and not others then?  By this I presume you mean that only mostly pro
>legalisation people would bother to vote;

No.  By "self selecting sample" I mean precisely that: a sample
that selects itself.  Other kinds of sample include the random
sample (pick some fraction of the population at random) and the
stratified sample (arrange the population into strata according to
some criterion, then select individuals (usually at random) from
each stratum in proportion to its size).

Self-selecting samples inevitably comprise those people who hold
stong opinions, one way or the other, on the issue at hand.  All
Usenet "votes" are tainted by this problem, but usually the issue
is utterly trivial ("should such.and.such newsgroup be created?"),
so it doesn't matter.

You will notice that reputable opinion polls are not conducted
along the lines of "dial 0898 123456 if you think the Prime Minister
should resign".  Instead, carefully stratified samples are chosen.
This is why we can have some confidence that the results accurately
reflect the opinions of the population.

>                                          if that's the case then it shows that
>most people couldn't give a toss weather it was legal or not, if they
>particularly wanted it to remain illegal then they would vote that way.

Sigh.  This is exactly the kind of unwarranted conclusion that
would be drawn from the "results" of the proposed poll.

(I hope you don't really believe the above argument is compelling,
but just in case, let me offer this straw man: if only pro legalization
people bother to vote, then it shows that most people are happy
with the status quo, confident that no politician will touch
legalization with a barge pole, and have better things to do with
their time.)

Tim.
--
Tim Goodwin   | "continuous witter about large metal wanking
Cambridge, UK | machines" -- Robin Fairbairns, about uk.transport.

Original headers:

From: tim@pipex.net (Tim Goodwin)
Newsgroups: uk.politics
Subject: Re: uk.politics Vote on Cannabis legalisation?
Date: 31 Mar 1996 16:30:59 GMT
Organization: Unipalm PIPEX
Message-ID: <4jmc03$fkc@wave.news.pipex.net>
References: <315b15b5.7235300@news.demon.co.uk>
  <4jgmh4$rba@wave.news.pipex.net>
  <315be7b0.6175065@news.demon.co.uk> <4jlu4r$mtg@sol.zynet.net>

△ uk.politics △

◅ uk.politics Vote on Cannabis legalisation?

Letter to my MP about Drugs and Censorship ▻