Roads, damned roads, and statistics

Matthew Chatfield
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The Weymouth & Portland, Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism has an impressively long name, and the Ranger suspects from their foray into the world of internet campaigning that their name also, not unreasonably, reflects their order of priorities.

Weymouth & Portland Relief Road campaign

Ah, yes, relief roads. Who can argue with the need for relief? And obviously, alliteratively, the natural agent for relief must be a road. It’s rather like safety signs. Everyone wants more signs, surely? They’re for safety, for goodness sake! But back to Weymouth. The Chamber has created a fierce-looking website to campaign for their much-desired road. They are even kind enough to say that:

We appreciate the concerns of environmentalists…

That’s lovely. Probably environmentalists appreciate the concerns of capitalists, too, but it would be even nicer if both parties did not dismiss contrary views quite so casually. The Chamber’s website contains a message from the WPCCIT president; a message from Dorset County Council; and a Relief Road Now poll. If you take the poll – and after reading the stirring messages, there’s little else to do on this website – you are asked three rather pointed questions, including “Is the lack of a relief road seriously affecting the future of Weymouth & Portland?”. It’s a good question, as it doesn’t even say whether the lack of a relief road is positive or negative. The Ranger commends the Chamber for having the sense to ask it. Sadly the other questions are a little less equitably worded, and leave little room for doubt as to what the intended message is. The results of the poll are also shown to participants after they have entered their answers. The Ranger suspects that the answers are not as the Chamber might have hoped. Nevertheless, he trusts that the Chamber will have the courage to publish the results of their survey nonetheless, and perhaps amend their stance accordingly. And even if they don’t, perhaps this humble blog will go a small way towards those aims. The Ranger has no view on this proposed road, and suggests that if you do go to the poll website, you do so with an open mind and carefully read the messages, as he did. You can also see a list of benefits the road could bring, and a list of the likely environmental effects of the road, and the measures proposed to ameliorate them. Take the poll UPDATE NOV 06: The poll on the website has now been closed for about 2 months (Nov 06) with the results promised ‘soon’. We await with bated breath! UPDATE DEC 06: The poll website now says:

With all poll results now available, it is clear that the vast majority of individual voters are in favour of the Weymouth Relief Road being built as soon as possible. Thank you for your interest in this important subject.

That may be clear but oddly, it doesn’t actually say what the results of the poll were. If the results showed “a vast majority” then they are very significantly different to the results shown on the poll website before it was taken down. The Ranger commends the chamber for their courageous attempt to gauge public opinion online. He notes that all campaigners of whatever persuasion would be wise to ensure that any online consultation process remains transparent and appears honest.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

One thought on “Roads, damned roads, and statistics

  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
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    It’s well known that statisticians assert that after studying their data they can confirm that every man and woman in the country has one breast and one testicle. The assertion has yet to be confirmed by empirical evidence gathered from a representative sample of men and women so we need to maintain a certain caution about the use of statistics in evidence. (Don’t tell the Government about this or they’ll all have to resign which would never do).

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