There are lies, dam’ lies, statistics and poll results. This seems to be the lesson we are all learning both in the British election and the various referendum campaigns. We all know that much depends on what the question is, how it is asked, where it is asked and in what circumstances.
The days when people were so overwhelmed by opinion polls that they answered everything openly and honestly are gone, even if they ever existed. Still, that does not explain the extreme discrepancy between two polls published in the Netherlands last week.
These were a poll conducted by the government (really?) and Maurice de Hond, a well-regarded polling company.
According to the government, 75 per cent of the population has said that they will definitely vote or are reasonably certain that they will vote. Of these, 50 per cent say they will vote yes and 30 per cent against. Given the usually high percentage of don’t knows, it seems that the government poll simply lumped them in with the yes group.
The Maurice de Hond poll is so different that one wonders whether they are talking about the same country. According to this, only 32 per cent have said that they will vote. Of these 37 per cent are inclined to yes and 41 per cent are inclined to no. The rest, presumably, have not made up their minds.
Previous polls indicated that the yes and no sides were neck and neck with the don’t knows easily leading the way.
Nothing much is clear, except that the government has a much harder job than it had imagined. Luckily for it, there is a “war budget” for “emergencies” of €1.5 million. Just in case the people will not do as they are told.