Where do they get their figures from? Not models, but statisticians. Seventy-two per cent of Indians prefer black-coloured cars, according to one survey. But they didn’t ask me. Forty-four per cent of those above forty-four are self-employed said another. But they reckoned without me. Thirty-one per cent go abroad for their holidays, 60 per cent put on their left shoes first, 99 per cent think death is inevitable, 16 per cent would rescue a cat stuck up a tree. All very well. But why didn’t they ask me?
I have been around for a bit now, and professionally I am paid to give my opinions whether you agree or not, so it would be safe to assume that I have preferences whatever the issue. But no. No one calls, asks me to tick boxes or cough twice to mean "yes" in any survey anywhere. And I am not unique in this. Statistics show that 79 per cent of the population are not surveyed on any issue. So all those wonderful things you read about, from a politician’s approval rating to the best way to cook fish have been culled from a percentage of 21 per cent of the population. Who says figures don’t lie? I made these up myself.
Still, I can believe some surveys even if I am not directly involved. For example, that three out of every four people make up 75 per cent of the population. Or that truth is the first casualty of public surveys. Everybody is entitled to projecting himself as the person he thinks he is, and that cannot be done without some judicious lying. So in a survey on books, unreadable stuff from the likes of Joyce and Proust and Beckett often top the list of public favourites because those who take the survey believe that is the right and proper thing to say. In surveys everybody has read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time from cover to cover, but in reality no one has completed the book.
But I digress. My beef is about being left out. Why does no one ask me? Can I register for surveys, public or private, or exit polls or ministerial approval ratings polls?
Is there a website where I can write down my list of favourite movies, books, actors, yoga postures, breathing exercises, colour of cars, newsmakers, pet peeves, phobias and so on so whoever conducts surveys on these subjects has statistics readymade, even ready to wear?
I am not even part of a survey in my own house. "Dad, let’s holiday in London this year," my son said recently, "two-thirds of this household prefer that." I surveyed myself. He was right. I preferred Auckland, but it didn’t matter.
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