Lies, damned lies and statistics

Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004:

Interestingly, the company (Detica) that commissioned the MORI report on ID cards that everyone is now referring to issued two ‘contradictory’ press releases today – a case of “let both sides quote us with something that suits their argument”?

On the one hand, British Public Gives Huge ‘Thumbs Up’ for National ID Cards – but on the other, British Public Sceptical Over Successful Introduction of National ID Card Scheme

If you want to read the results of the MORI poll itself you can download it here: Detica – National Identity Cards.pdf [188 KB PDF file]

UPDATED 24/4/04: There’s been a whole pile of commentary on this poll, here are a few of the highlights: – ID cards: no data security fears – and no chance we’ll pay for them

BBC NEWS – Public ‘happy to carry ID cards’

The Register – UK public wants ID cards, and thinks we’ll screw up the IT

Commentators seem to have picked up on scepticism about the Government’s ability to implement ID cards, but take a range of views on the apparently overwhelming level of in principle public support for ID cards. It is disappointing that the (mainstream) press have not waded in with more substantial analyses – e.g. if you factor in ‘desire to pay’, the headlines would tell a completely different story!

I have to say also that I am less than happy with the methodology of at least one survey that I took recently – the Reader’s Poll – which only attempted to qualify the responses of those who agreed with the principle of ID cards: disgreement in principle led to no further questions! I am not saying that the MORI poll was similarly flawed (in fact I highly doubt it) but, especially given my past experiences of (psychological) questionnaire design and social research, I would be wary of drawing any sweeping or definitive conclusions from what appears to be a very contradictory evidence base.

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