Saturday, 26 November 2016

Thoughts from abroad

I am a bit paranoid about blogging or posting on Facebook or Twitter while I am away. Apparently if you have a break-in, insurance companies check social media to see if you are “advertising” that you are away from home before they pay out.  Told you I was paranoid. We were in the USA late October and the following blogs are about our visit.

Visiting our close ally and friend is complicated. We don't need visas but have to apply for an ESTA form online. There is a customs form to fill in on the plane; you then stand in line to self scan your passport etc; receive a printed form and then stand in line to go through the usual with an immigration officer.  We were visiting family in New York and Philadelphia but our visit to Washington DC was strictly “cultural”.  When we responded to the immigration officer that we were there on vacation, she asked what we were planning to do. To my reply “visit art galleries and museums” her response was “Is that it?”.  Well, yes but I threw in visiting family as well.  Surprisingly the luggage wasn't through yet but, once collected, we then stood in line again to hand in our customs form. (Our cases were opened and searched on the return journey – a form inside indicated that this had been done.)

One assumes that visiting the USA a month before the presidential election might generate conversations about politics, theirs not ours. We were sure Clinton and Trump would figure in conversations especially as Husband Number One insisted on asking everyone their views.

We finally worked out how to use Uber and it worked perfectly and was substantially less than taxi fare.  Yay!  Just as well because conversations with Uber drivers followed a theme that made Hillary’s “certain” victory look less likely.

One is anecdote, two is evidence...

This was once said – as a joke – in a scientific meeting I attended.  In a scientific context size means a lot, which is why large scale clinical trials are required for new drugs or treatments.

When it comes to market research, including opinion polls, we rely on “representative” polls of relatively small samples, in relation to the market or population size, to make our judgements. Although all sorts of factors are built into these surveys, the opinion polls for the last UK general election, the UK referendum and now the US Presidential election have proved woefully inadequate.

Then there is “the man on the Clapham omnibus” – this Victorian invention is still used in the courts when they need to decide whether a party has acted as a reasonably educated and intelligent person would.
Then there is the taxi-driver survey: when the only type of taxi driver in London was the “black cab” driver and he (!) was usually a Londoner, this was quoted as a guide to how Londoners thought.

Based on our cab/Uber driver survey in three cities, Trump was a shoo-in. The conversations were not miles away from some of the Brexit discussions (apart from those who had reasonably thought through reasons): – we need a change, I’m tired of the establishment, I don’t think he/they will win anyway, it’s a protest vote etc etc. Most had heard of Brexit, had no idea what it was about but were aware the vote “had gone against the establishment”. I am not sure that it was as clear-cut as that, but that was the impression.

To be contd.....

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