A poll shows the stupidity of opinion polls

There is a letter in today’s Daily Telegraph (The Simple Solution to the Sun-Lounger Crisis) regarding the difficulties British tourists have when travelling abroad. David Taylor reckons that British tourists are, for the most part, incapable of speaking in any language other than English. A common complaint heard from them is that foreigners (usually Germans) have got all the sun-beds at the beach resorts, and this writer has seen an incident in Cyprus in which the British tourists grumbled while the empty sun-beds were, in fact, in a cupboard ready to be taken out on request!

The chain of letters led back to an opinion poll conducted by “YouGov” for the Daily Telegraph, in which the respondents were asked to name their five best, and worst, places to live or travel. It must have been a fairly limited list, as the usual places came back time and time again. The survey asked 2,058 adults last December. The article has a GIF image of the results of the poll.

The places the Brits would most like to live are all English-speaking countries: Britain first (only 49%!), then Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Israel, India, Russia, China and Egypt are the places they’d least like to live - really, not surprising, given that some of these countries are war zones, or corrupt, or unfamiliar, or not known for having vast amounts of cheap land. The friendliest people appear in five English speaking countries as well (NZ is barged aside by Ireland), with the least friendly in France, Germany, Israel, Russia and (joint fifth) the US and Egypt. Of course, one wonders how a country can be the fourth-friendliest, with Canada behind, and simultaneously the joint fifth unfriendliest, with Egypt. Israel turns up as the least beautiful (NZ is the most beautiful) and the fourth least democratic (after China, Russia and Dubai).

The Telegraph says this about the poll itself:

The data have been weighted to conform to the demographic profile of British adults as a whole. YouGov abides by the rules of the British Polling Council.

What on earth do they mean, “weighted”? You mean, altered to make it reflect what they think the British public might really think? How on earth can anyone take seriously a poll of less than 2,100 people (out of around 60 million) which has then been altered by the polling company? As the Egyptian embassy’s Press Counsellor points out (letters, 12th Jan), every year half a million British visitors disagree with the few hundred in that poll who put Egypt among their least favourite holiday destinations.

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