The voting survey: a lesson in sampling bias

Our feds came up with a survey that had some useful questions in it, but also had some questions that gave the overall impression of how they wanted the questions answered. They are asking me to agree or disagree with statements that have not been discussed a whole lot in the media, and really require complex answers. The “questions” usually came in the form of statements such as:

  1. Canadians should have the option to cast their vote online in federal elections, even if it is less secure.
    • How innovative! Are they thinking of repeating the mistakes in the American elections? Ballots may be low tech, but they are completely secure from hacking, which seems to occur too frequently in Europe and America to allow our democracy to be guided by it.
  2. There should be parties in Parliament that represent the views of all Canadians, even if some are radical or extreme.
    • The question is worded in such a way so as to make the repsentation of all Canadians itself a “radical” concept. The far left has had political parties for generations, but I am sure that the Marxist-Leninists and the Communists are completely out of the question. And the Greens are just slightly out of our consciousness. The far right is mentioned far more often in the media, and is what  most people might be thinking about in this survey, making this question sufficiently repulsive enough it its wording to encourage people to disagree with the statement.
    • “The views of all Canadians” is something that should be respected anyway. There have been, as of late too much corporate influence, but that can be changed by changing how parties are funded, not by changing how we vote. But for another thing, the number of seats for official party status should be lowered to 1, allowing Ms. Elizabeth May to represent the Green Party officially. The current minimum is 6, so the BQ would still have official party status.
  3. 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.
    • The government elected should do the job it promised. “Negotiations” change the platform the parties were elected on into something else, making it harder for governing parties to fulfil their campaign promises, and be held accountable. Policies would be enacted that no voter ever agreed to. There is already a negotiation process anyway. That’s when MPs have “first reading” and “second reading” in the House of Commons. Policies can change to secure the votes on both sides of the house in that process. I don’t recall anyone complaining about that, except that it’s slow. The proposed measure sounds like it would be far slower.
    • Then there’s the question of “what if it works”? If it works, it clearly works in favour of the ruling party, since voters are likely to keep the same system operating, and opposition parties would be motivated to make the system fail on purpose in some way, so they can win the next election.
  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.
    • No. You end up with a hybrid that neither the ruling party nor the opposition voted for. Doesn’t sound democratic.
  5. The voting age for federal elections should be lowered.
  6. 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.
    • I’ve heard of this before, it sounds good if the choices are structured as “first choice”, “second choice”, and so on. This hints at an electoral method that involves runoffs. Counting the votes means correlating who voted for X and Y. The lowest gets eliminated, so if X is eliminated, his votes are counted for Y. Mind you, this questionnaire never comes out and mentions a particular voting system. It just hints at things. So, what motivates these questions is itself an open question.
    • That being said, it doesn’t sound like a human can count this, since this means associating #1, #2, and #3 vote choices for each voter. My choice and your first choice might be the same, but if that person gets eliminated, your second choice might not be the same as my second, and we both need to be respected so that my vote then goes to my second choice as does your vote to yours.  It takes computers to make such fine-grained associations for millions of voters, and computers are corruptible. I would only trust it if the government hired programmers to write the code (so there is no patent infringement as Diebold so often cited in the States for its hacked voting computers), then make the source code public and free for anyone to download and examine, and compile to see that it runs the same way as the copies used in a voting kiosk.
  7. 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.
    • This call for multi-party “cooperation” in developing policy sounds like a jump into those school group activities where all children have some skill to bring to the group that causes the group to produce better results on a project than the sum of their individual efforts would have. I expect a huge generational difference in opinion here, depending on what kind of education you had, and what decades you attended school.
    • All fine. Wouldn’t we all want to see our members of parliament cooperate on both sides of the house for a change? But this has a problem of placing the opposition parties into the realm of accountability where there is nobody left in the house to hold the government accountable, since everyone is now a policymaker, and what would be the purpose of elections then? As much as I like Trudeau, we need the Conservatives and the NDP to ask him and the Liberal Party tough, pointed questions during Question Period. You can’t be a critic on the opposition side if you are also cooperating with the governing party. I need an opposition MP to complain to about policy as a citizen, and it doesn’t help if their party was consulted in drawing up the policy.
  8. Members of Parliament should always support the position of their party, even if it means going against the wishes of their constituents.
    • No, we have had enough of that. Constituents voted for the MP, they should matter more. But they should, out of loyalty, vote for policies that their party ran for on their platform. Loyalty should extend no further.

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