Saturday, October 16, 2010

Remember An Anecdote Isn’t Data Nor A Trend!

Even with a new study from the University of Massachusetts showing that infrastructure like roads is an even quicker and better path to economic development than tax incentives, I’m not taking for granted the success of the Durham street bond which is on the ballot next month.

I hear good things on the street but as a polling expert on NPR heeded the news media this week, “an anecdote isn’t data nor is it a trend.”  I’ve heard the results of two recent and well conducted polls about the Durham street bond.

One, using only respondents who fit traditional voting patterns, shows the measure passing and I believe it will.  But the turnout in the 2008 election was unusual and from news reports, it appears the upcoming election could also be unusual but for different reasons.  Another poll using all respondents who “say” they are likely to vote in this election shows passage of the street bond could all come down to who actually votes this year.67436_1686245959862_1349064936_1849506_7743062_n

Ordinarily you can trust the traditional approach which doesn’t ask you if you’re going to vote but assumes you that you will by the nature of your demographics and past voting patterns.  This is especially true in a community like Durham where turnout traditionally tends to consist of a somewhat small but passionate lot of pro-Durham voters.

However, the 2008 election was anything but traditional in Durham and judging by other polls around the country it appears this one may not be traditional either, but for opposite reasons.  One election used optimism to pull many more voters into the process and this time it appears negativity may well pull more “anti” voters into the process.

Just click to enlarge the humorous image above to see the disconnect many voters obviously have between taxes paid and benefits received (shared recently by Rob Gillespie on Facebook.)  Apparently, to the people depicted it won’t matter that the Durham bond will only cost each taxpayer about the same as a cup of coffee each month.

I still recall mid-90s when this happened and we’re still living with the consequences.  They gerrymandered districts to eliminate some great statesmen, did stupid things to drive up the trade deficit and generated some peculiar opinions such as the one asked me at a public hearing by an elected official from the self-proclaimed, pro-business party: When will Durham have enough visitors and no longer need promotion?

This question is humorous because a community theoretically may reach a point at when it doesn’t need more visitor revenue but to sustain that level, each visitor would still need to be re-drawn from scratch each year, so there is no guaranteed par when it comes to visitation.

Hopefully this election won’t take us back to those days…we need all of the optimistic and “can-do” thinking we can get out of this mess.

If you’re interested in public opinion polling as I am, a good blog that I enjoy  which was recommended to me by some friends is FiveThirtyEight .


Barry said...

Reyn - not everyone voting no on this bond issue will be doing so because of an opposition to taxes.

Reyn said...

Hope you'll shed some light on some of those reasons Barry. I'd be very interested. I've only heard two, the tax issue and the head of Young Republicans noting it should come out of operating. I blogged that of course it should...Tom has acknowledged that going forward it will...right now we're catching up on deferred maintenance done in the '90s but that was also due to perceived resistance to taxes. I'd be interested in other reasons. Hope you're well and thanks for the comment.