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The NATO poll nonsense

Claiming the spurious poll on NATO membership tells us anything shows a complete disregard for the science of measuring opinion

Some people are still going on about that NATO poll as if it means something. So one last shot…

Clear your mind; the correct answer is the first answer that comes into your mind so don’t think about it. Who would you like to have sex with?

This of course works better verbally but the chance is you didn’t think of your current partner. But don’t feel bad or guilty – its not your fault, it’s the question. ‘Would’ is a modal verb, which means its very purpose is to indicate not existing fact but future or theoretical possibility – the word primes you to think of a situation different from the current situation. It also encourages risk-free imaginative responses, ones that aren’t going to happen so you don’t need to worry about how you answer. And ‘like’, a word almost wholly focused on aesthetic reactions rather than deeper value judgements. It is encouraging you to select on the basis of the most limited criteria. The question is designed to make you answer in a theoretical and superficial way. The important question is the current, active, value-based question. Who DO you WANT to have sex with?

“Do you feel safer in a crash helmet?” Well, I hadn’t thought about it. I suppose I definitely don’t feel less safe in a crash helmet. I still feel safe from all the things I was safe from before (plague, flood, zombies) but now I also feel safe from small objects landing on my head. “Do you feel safer in your duvet?” Hmmm, I guessing FEEL safer I my duvet. It’s cosy. Bad things don’t usually happen to me in my duvet. “Do you feel safer in your house?” Eh, yes. It’s cold outside and raining. “Do you feel safer in NATO?” I’ll tell you what, shall we just agree from now on that I will always FEEL safer IN something. As long as you don’t give me a comparator like a “than you would if…” which would enable me to make a sensible comparison. Because that would make me realise that I felt perfectly safe before and actually on balance no less so.

“Do you want an independent Scotland to remain in NATO?” Now, that’s a question I hadn’t considered before. But then, you just said it was safer. No, you did, I heard you. You just said ‘NATO’ and ‘safer’ right next to each other. I’m meant to answer yes, amn’t I? That’s the right answer, isn’t it? Because no-one likes to get the answer wrong.

DO NOT MISTAKE THIS CHEAP PR STUNT FOR A SERIOUS OPINION POLL. Because these aren’t the questions that should have been asked. The real question, the important question, is quite different:

What kind of Scotland DO you WANT to live in?

Robin McAlpine