On 14 November, I posted about a challenge to Government statistics. In the post I said I was sceptical about some of the report, but I was very interested in the way it attacked the Government's use of statistics. The Government's position is that speed cameras save lives, the journalists in the Telegraph were supporting a claim that speed cameras made the roads more dangerous.
Now, in a wonderful 2.0 Internet sort of way, the Telegraph's journalists have been blasted for selective use of statistics and misleading interpretations in an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian. The key points that Monbiot makes are:
1) The Telegraph quoted errors in the 2003 report from the Government, but did not mention that the 2005 report identified and corrected the errors (in 2003 the Government claimed speed cameras reduced deaths by 35%, in 2005 the figure was corrected to 19%).
2) That the quotes about a Parliamentary report were both partial and incorrect.
3) That opinion polls support speed cameras (something which agrees with the local polls I have seen), the Telegraph claimed that polls opposed the use of speed cameras..
Whilst the debate is enjoyable, it is very hard for the lay person to know who is telling the truth. The ideal solution would be to improve the status of the statistical functions of the Government so that almost everybody believed them, as opposed to the current situation, where very few believe them.
One thing that has a direct impact on the polls is the way they are conducted. In 2003 YouGov conducted a poll for the Telegraph, which showed that 56% of motorists felt there were too many cameras. However, had the poll been conducted with pedestrians and cyclists, the results could have been different. The views of motorists are certainly worth hearing, but in terms of speed cameras you ALSO need to listen to to other intrerested parties.
Safe Speed is an organisation campaigning for the removal of all speed cameras. They have a poll on their website, where they report that 63% of people want all cameras removing. But the only people who vote are people who visit their website, and in total (as at 19 November) just 87 people have chosen to vote.
In 2005 a Mori poll for the Greater London Authority produced 58% support for speed cameras, but the question specified "in 20 mile per hour zones", which again is likely to impact the result.
A more recent Telegraph/YouGov poll puts support for speed cameras at 50% (with 39% being opposed).