Monthly Archives: September 2014

Whose responsibility?

Actually, I was wrong yesterday. Lord Ashcroft did say this on Twitter:


(I checked at about 9pm on 20/09/2014 and the tweet above had been deleted — it has been replaced with one that was much more reasonable, showing that 51% of 16-24 year olds voted “Yes” (*). Because my ranting doesn’t make sense without the original tweet, I put a copy of the original above).
And was retweeted almost 900 times, spreading the totally unfounded idea of radical teenagers.

I don’t know how many 16-17 year olds voted for independence because no one does. I do know that research before the referendum suggested that 16-17 year olds were actually the group most likely to vote “no” after the 60+ group, so this would be a surprising turnabout, though not impossible if turnout was skewed/ people changed their minds.

I’m sure someone will do the research and bring out more accurate figures, but what are the chances that anyone will believe those now?

What’s bothering me today is whose responsibility is it that hundreds (at least) of people now believe this story. Should Lord Ashcroft have made the claim above (especially without telling anyone his margin of error)? Should everyone who retweeted have waited for the full data to be released? Should everyone who makes these claims be able to calculate what the figures really mean?

Presumably Lord Ashcroft knows how polling works, and knows that 14 is too small a sample to make those claims about. So why did he make them?

And now, apparently, an SNP chap is citing this data on TV so even more people will believe it. Argh.

This makes me sad :(


But just because I can’t let something go, the 16-24 year old group was 98 people, which is an error margin of 10%, which makes a 49%/51% split almost completely meaningless anyway…







Won’t somebody think of the numbers…?

(Note: I don’t have an official position on the referendum but ageism and dodgy counting annoy me)

There’s just been a bit of a Twitter fuss about a poll produced by Lord Ashcroft, which suggested that support for “Yes” in the Scottish independence referendum was highest among 16-17 year olds (at 71%), and lowest among people over 60 (at 27%).

The table released on Twitter

Cue a lot of bile directed at older people who have apparently snatched independence away from the adventurous young with their aged conservatism. How dare they vote! You’d almost think people over 60 were human, or something.

So many angry tweets.

And when Lord Ashcroft released the data it turned out this bile and fury was based on the responses of 14 (I’ll write that out so it’s more obvious: FOURTEEN) 16-17 year olds. Ten of them voted “Yes” and four of them voted “No”.

I’m not sure what his selection methods were, but even if they were as pure and perfect as it’s possible to be, you can’t draw conclusions on a polled sample of fourteen people.

Calculating things hurts my brain, but this is important and so let’s do counting:

You have margins of error. One way of calculating margin of error is:

The margin of error in a sample = 1 divided by the square root of the number of people in the sample

The square root of 14 is 3.74, so 1 divided by 3.74 is 0.267, or 26.7%.

So, what we can say with something approaching something like confidence is that (probably) between 98% and 44% of 16-17 voted “Yes”. Maybe.

I could probably have told you that anyway.

To be fair to Lord Ashcroft, he hasn’t made any claims based on this figure, he just released the table.

So, Twitter, stop fussing.