Thursday, 3 May 2012

Stuff people believe

I have always thought that people believed weird stuff about economics, but went it comes to the end of the world things get really strange! The Stuff website is reporting,
Nearly 15 per cent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 per cent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012, according to a new poll.
Thomas Lumley at the Stats Chat blog comments,
Presumably Ipsos, who know how to poll, are accurately reporting what people said, and the 15% and 10% figures are actually reasonably representative of what people will answer if you ask them that question. That doesn’t mean the conclusions are true — they obviously aren’t true, since if 15% of people really believed that, they would be behaving differently.

This is a big problem with surveys — even representative polls of people can give weird results, because polls measure how people answer questions, not what they actually believe.
Which is part of the reason many economists don't fully trust survey data. Data on what people actually do, rather than what they say they would do, is preferable.


Eric Crampton said...

I'm guessing that none of those respondents take the more sensible end-of-the-world worries.

1. Specify that population increases until the world ends. If that's true, then if you're randomly dropped into any particular generation, it's most likely to be the most populous one. And that's the one closest to the end.

2. The Great Filter. Something's stopped anybody from achieving galactic or intergalactic civilization. Tons of potentially habitable planets that could have sparked life; we see no life. Whatever stopped them will stop up. And, the more we learn about the ease of creating life in the lab, the more likely it is that the great filter lies ahead of us rather than behind.

So eat, drink and be merry....

Eric Crampton said...

Oh, that and the Great Green Arkleseizure and the coming of the great handkerchief.