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“To what extent do you agree that local buses that abandon vulnerable old ladies in isolated locations is acceptable?”

A staggering 99.8% of constituents believe local buses services are currently unacceptable...

We can all recognise a leading question from a politician, designed to give the result they are looking for.

In fairness to my MP, he produces OK surveys. But to look at the effects of survey design, let’s look at two of his questions around a proposed 20mph speed limit to improve air quality in Buxton.

Question 1: Do you agree with the proposal for a 20mph speed limit in Buxton Town Centre?

·        Yes

·        I would support a 20mph limit in residential areas and around schools but not on main roads

·        No

It’s this middle, reasonable-sounding choice that affects this question

1)     Three options are a little like a supermarket’s: Value/Standard/Premium range. The premium (“Yes”) may only be there to show the middle option as best value. Does presenting options like this skew the results?

2)     Having introduced the middle option, are we sure there aren’t other options? Are we forcing people to make a false choice?

Ultimately, 49% were against, 17% in favour and 34% went for this middle choice. What we don’t know is how those votes would have split without that middle option. Now, there’s leeway to interpret results to suit one’s case (in this instance to oppose the idea)


Question 2: On a scale of 0-10, how would you rate the air quality in Buxton?

No further information is provided, So, how would people know? Personally, I imagine it’s quite good. But Buxton sits in a bowl, surrounded by hills – perhaps pollutants get trapped?

A far better question would be to compare the air quality in Buxton with similar-sized towns, and ask how acceptable that is.

In the end, 65% gave a rating of 8 or more, giving further reasons not to support the proposal.


The end results – reasonably and credibly presented – were one of the factors which led the local council to reject the idea. 

But we can question the research. And that’s without considering the effects of the sampling, and people’s existing attitudes to placing limits on car usage.

Great insight only comes from great research, follow me for more insights on getting it right.

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