Questions I’d like an Irish pollster to ask.

Every time there’s an opinion poll published a certain type of poll-junkie comes rushing out of the bushes to throw massive extrapolations on the results. But what I find interesting is just how uninformative the actual polls are. They tend to give a shallow glimpse at voter thinking but rarely explain what, why or how voters have come to the decisions they have arrived at, or what values shape those beliefs.

Here are a few questions I would love to see asked of voters. But a warning: Yes, they are leading. My point is that I would like to see the person being polled challenged as to how strongly they hold their beliefs, and whether they believe that they should be held to the standard of their own beliefs.  

1. Do you believe that the government should increase taxes more, or cut spending?

2. Do you believe you personally should pay higher taxes to fund services for the vulnerable in society?

3. If yes: how much extra per week would you be willing to pay?

4. I have a selection of charity direct-debit forms here. As you are willing to contribute more to help the less well-off, will you fill in a direct debit of your choice for the amount you stated you were willing to pay extra in taxes to help the vulnerable?

(Purpose of question: I believe that many voters claim that they would “happily” pay a higher contribution to help those less well-off than them, but would change their minds when actually asked to do it. The statistical difference between those who claim to support the concept, and those who actually do donate the extra amount would be very informative)

5. Do you believe you are over taxed?

6. Including income taxes, VAT, PRSI and USC, what percentage of your gross income do you believe you pay in tax? (Compare answer to actual percentage of tax paid by individual)

7. What’s the highest proportion tax you believe you should pay, percentage wise?

8. We have calculated the percentage of tax you actually pay. If it is lower than the amount you say should be the highest level you should pay, would you be willing to donate the balance to a charity of your choice?

9. Are you better at spending your money than the government is?

10. Do you believe people who earn more than you pay enough tax?

11. If someone who earns less than you believes that you don’t pay enough tax, are they right?

12. If not, why not?

13. If a person who earns more than you declined to pay extra tax because (use answer 12, above) would you say that was a valid excuse?

2 thoughts on “Questions I’d like an Irish pollster to ask.

  1. I think we can all guess what sort of answers such questions would get. Particularly for question 9. Optimism Bias and all that.

    And then there is the old problem illustrated in “Guns not Butter” – “68% think we give too much in foreign aid, and 59% think it should be cut.”

    Happily we live in a republic, not a democracy. Unhappily the Oireachtas is as dysfunctional as the populace (if not more so). Still, at least the Oireachtas fears retribution.

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