Note added 3 September 11:25 – henceforth comments will not be published that merely say I’m hypocritical/appalling/intrusive etc. to require a name/e-mail address on your observations. I’ve already OKed several that say this and you are contributing nothing new to any discussion. My reply to Evelyn Malcolm in the comments below explains. Thanks.
Earlier this morning I tweeted the following peremptory message:
My advice: under no circumstances fill in @theSNP’s spurious online ‘national survey’. Reasons follow in blog later.
I’d had a quick look at the survey and was immediately suspicious but needed to check a bit more of the context before confirming my advice. It’s now confirmed and here’s why.
I recorded that context for the survey on my blog page A month of being wooed:
a summer initiative targetting No voters across the country in a major drive to put the case for Scottish independence to the electorate [to] assess the merits and shortcomings of the 2014 independence campaign as well as come up with cogent responses to questions on issues such as what currency an independent Scotland would use, its membership of the European Union and its economy [for full text/source see entry for 1 May at the bottom of the page].
As most people know, the exercise did not happen over summer, knocked off course initially by putative initiative-leader Stewart Hosie’s marital problems and then by all the post-Brexit decision scurrying around. It’s been launched, at last, by the first minister today. The language surrounding it seems to have evolved. For a while it was a national ‘conversation’ and the BBC still call it that on their web site. Meantime, over on the SNP web site Nicola Sturgeon’s calling it a ‘listening exercise.’
Whether it’s an initiative, a conversation or a listening exercise, it’s started with the survey so let’s just focus on that.
The site has the innocent address ‘survey2016.scot’ and is entitled ‘The National Survey’ which rather suggests it’s something it isn’t without actually claiming it. The unwary might assume that something is the official Office for National Statistics. It’s not. The only confirmation of who’s carrying out the survey is in tiny lettering at the bottom of the page, so tiny you may not be able to read it here (click to enlarge or check the web site itself:
My idea of a conversation is that two or more people meet and exchange views in a reasonably open way. Each can chip in with what they want to say. Indeed, Sturgeon’s introduction to the survey (the ’SNP’ link above) suggests precisely that:
Members of the public can take part … and set out concerns and questions they have.
You can only set out your concerns and questions in a survey if there’s space on a form to write in your own opinions. You can’t here. All the questions and the options to answer them are the SNP’s choice and the only way you can complete the survey is by ticking the boxes they think are relevant.
There’s another constraint on completing the survey – most of the questions are compulsory including giving your full name, postcode and e-mail address. Don’t fill those in and you can’t submit your answers to the other questions.
An online survey prey to manipulation does need some device to stop people completing it multiple times but this is not it. Those personal details in the possession of the SNP mean at least three things:
- they can find out your precise address from other publically available sources of information
- they know your views on a range of issues and can contact you (because you’re sympathetic) or avoid you (because you’re not and they’d waste their time and money doing so)
- if enough people answer the survey in an area they will build up a picture of their support that will help them target future marketing/electoral campaigns.
If they really want to know what people generally think about the issues raised in the survey, there are far more efficient and effective ways of doing so. Foremost among these would be to hire a polling/market research company and get them to carry out the survey professionally. Perhaps like YouGov, who have just published their latest poll on whether Scotland should be an independent country (Yes 46%, No 54% – no change since 2014 then).
The game is given away by that miniscule lettering at the bottom of the page. The very last words say ‘Privacy and Data Protection.’ Click on that and you get:
So there you have it. It’s not a conversation. It’s not even really listening. It’s a data collection exercise more to do with marketing, and perhaps with keeping all those new members happy who are gagging for independence.
Incidentally, note that if you want to opt out of all those exciting things the SNP will do with your information, you have to write to them – write as in pen, paper, envelope, stamp. The address is given. No e-mail. No online enquiry form. Makes it easy doesn’t it?
The whole thing is indeed jiggery-pokery of the highest order. Avoid it like the plague.
Footnote. If you didn’t see it when you came on to the No Thanks! blog, I wrote a follow-up to this article on various issues that arose in discussion online.