Sunday, June 19, 2011

Protectionism Ahead?

Arthur Goldhammer links to this poll from Marianne on people's opinion on protectionism in France. The title argues that 80% of the French population want a protectionism at the European borders. Spoiler: That's wrong(see below). A couple of comments:

- Protectionis seems to be on the rise, as I mentioned in yesterday's post.
- However, the poll is flawed, and the 80% headline number that Marianne is using is utterly misleading.
Here is what Marianne says:
80% des personnes interrogées dans le sondage IFOP, dont on lira les résultats ci-dessous, sont favorables à un protectionnisme aux frontières de l’Europe.


Here is what the poll has:
Si les pouvoirs publics décident d’augmenter les droits de douane, faut-il le faire... ?
Sondage: 80% des Français pour un protectionnisme européen
So, conditional on increasing tariff duties, 80% of the population say that they should be increased at the European borders, which is hardly a vindication of the protectionism that Marianne seems to prone.
More importantly, there's no way you can use the number to say that 80% of the population is for protectionism! Now, the number Marianne wants to use is not that far off. There's a question asking whether taxes should be increased against India and China, and 65% said Yes. However, the number is not useful, since Marianne decided to bias its poll in the previous question:
Aujourd’hui, les produits importés des pays tels que la Chine ou l’Inde sont peu taxés en France. Etes-vous favorable ou opposé à ce choix ? 
 Yep, this won't give you the results you want. You'd better ask something like "Are you satisfied with the level of taxes on Chinese and Indian Imports" and include an "I don't know" possibility(admittedly Marianne did this in the original question). You'll have quite a different number, I would guess.

In any case: bad headline, misleading number, biased poll, there is not a lot of information to extract there.

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