Lies, lies and damn surveys

The Education Minister and Second Minister for Defence, Ng Eng Hen said the other day that two National Education (NE) surveys on students conducted in 2008 and 2010 showed that over 95 per cent were proud to be Singaporeans.

Similar surveys on National Servicemen have also consistently shown that a majority feel they belong here and would defend Singapore should it come under threat.

He said this at the 2nd Connexion Seminar, adding that he was quite happy that the surveys showed that there’s a great sense of belonging.

“And I think that our young are optimistic and we have built something precious, and something which Singaporeans are willing to defend.”

The 2010 NE survey was administered on about 74,000 pupils and students in Primary 4 and 6, Secondary 2 and 4, and second-year junior college to gauge their feelings towards and perceptions of Singapore.

The most recent survey showed that more than 95 per cent of the students said that they are proud to be Singaporeans and more than 93 per cent of them are proud of the country’s achievements.

Sentiments from this poll are similar to those of one conducted in 2008, added Dr Ng.
“Our students quite openly declare their love for Singapore and are proud of Singapore’s achievements.”

Also, he cited results of objective surveys conducted in recent years on full-time national servicemen, NSmen and members of the public.

Dr Ng said: “It is heartening to know that…more than 90 per cent of respondents said that Singapore is a place where they belong, and they would defend Singapore should it come under threat.”

Some cynics in cyberspace have suggested that Minister Ng’s survey revelations weren’t entirely co-incidental. They point to a recent exchange between Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and a student which has been doing its rounds on the Internet.

The subject?

National service and foreign talent. For a typical cyber-reaction, go here. There are many examples but I chose this because the blogger likes Bali, like i do.

Now, what i’m going to add to Dr Ng’s surveys is entirely co-incidental. Around the same time his survey story hit print and the airwaves, I had the BBC radio on as per normal as background noise whenever I exercise or do up my face.

As luck would have it, I heard an interview on a subject right after my own heart: debunking the usefulness of surveys and such like poll taking. In short, the person interviewed believes that conducting surveys is a complete waste of time!

Me too, as I’ve always believed that

1) what people say they will do and what they actually do are two different things and depends much on circumstances at the time when they say it and when they do it

2) replies could be manipulated by the way questions are posed; the options that are provided and the sampling group.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here in a nutshell is what Philip Graves, author of Consumer.ology, says about surveys:

“My point in writing the book is to say that at the moment businesses, organisations and politicians are putting a lot of faith in something that is extraordinarily haphazard as a too. Is market research always wrong? Of course not. Is your horoscope always wrong? No.”

For more about Graves and his thoughts on surveys, go to this link


7 thoughts on “Lies, lies and damn surveys

  1. they should do it like the scientific ( or at least the clinical) community – if you do a survey/audit of sorts, have the guts to publish the paper detailing the impetus, the methodology, the statistical analysis and the results.

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 5 Nov 2010 « The Singapore Daily

  3. D’accord, Areya! I think SIN shld hav a law tt all surveys done in and abt SIN should provide methodology, caveats as to limitations, bias etc, so that those using the results will know they are at best an indicator and not full/fool-proof. But then, I’m no researcher lah, so may b talking off my head! 😛

  4. Blur, I think the figures are accurate but the methodology by which they were obtained could be suspect! 😛

  5. On surveys, Lim Zi Rui’s worries is reflected by surveys on Tan Kin Lian’s surveys on the general election:

    87% will vote for change, and 90% view opposition parties favourably. Of course, Tan Kin Lian himself acknowledges that his online survey has limitations. But for us to believe the 95% survey is a stretch.

  6. Hi Anon: With all due respect, I think Mr Tan’s surveys are equally suspect. 87% will vote for change n 90% view Opp parties favourably? In your dream lah! I will give those findings some credence if they r in the 40-45% range! 😛

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