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.