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Lies, Damned Lies, and Suan Dusit Polls

Transcript of the above video:

The title of this video may be a bit confusing to folks and I want to clarify what I am talking about here. There is an old quote, it has been attributed from what I have read to Theodore Roosevelt, the former President of the United States although I have seen it attributed to others but basically the quote is: "There are lies, damned lies and statistics." To be clear I am not accusing anyone of lying. What that quote encapsulates is a notion that statistics can be a bit misleading when you look at how statistics are taken for example in polling for example when looking at percentages, if you fail to drill down and understand the context of something it can seem like there is a consensus at times for something where it may not necessarily be the case. The reason I thought of that quote, it came from a recent article I read in Thai PBS World, that is, the article was titled: Survey - 60% of Thai people believe country not ready to reopen to foreign arrivals. I don't mean to chuckle a little bit here but I was really shocked by that because I cannot imagine 60% of the Thai people at least that I am talking to and I do talk to Thai people from all walks of life here in Thailand, there doesn't seem to be a major 60% consensus amongst them to not have foreign arrivals come back. In fact I think many people you could say are chomping at the bit to get foreign arrivals back in to Thailand because of the economic effects that they bring with them. 

That said, when I read into this a little further I thought of this quote because it's like well, okay maybe 60% in this poll felt this way but does that mean 60% of the overall country feels this way? So again, when getting into this, quoting directly: "A recent opinion poll shows that 60% of Thai people surveyed" (keep that in mind) "do not agree with the November 1st reopening of Thailand to vaccinated foreign travelers without quarantine." And again, I just really’ that has not been the consensus I have seen amongst people that I have talked to. "saying that the country is not yet ready because less than 70% of the population have been vaccinated." Quoting further: "On the other hand, the survey also shows that 39.9% of those surveyed agree that the November 1st target is timely." I thought that was a little redundant but I quoted it anyway. Of course if 60.1% think one thing and 39.9% think another thing and again, it appears that this was a yes no poll which may have an impact on how people answer when you think about it. More to the point, I thought this was more insightful. Quoting directly: "The Suan Dusit poll by Suan Dusit University gathered opinions of 1,392 people from various groups across the country between October 11th and 14th." Well my question is how far across the country did you go in a couple of days to find this information? Who were these people? And more to the point and I think this is really gets right down to it, 1,392 people against 70 million people in the whole country. I mean, and look these things can be skewed in many different ways. And let me be even clearer, I don't think anyone intentionally did this. This happens. Polls are made and you can just end up with an odd subset of people that say something that may not really be all that indicative of the broader population you are trying to gain some clarity on, okay? That is honestly what I think happened here. I think everybody is operating in good faith. I just think that perhaps these particular 1,392 people may not necessarily fully reflect the thinking of everyone here in Thailand. Again I don't think anybody is lying. I am simply using that quote because it does encapsulate the notion of what we are talking about here, that statistics on one level can seem very compelling from an evidentiary standpoint. At the same time, until you drill down and start to really get a feel for how these statistics were derived, until you do that, you may not be getting the best or the fullest picture of what we are looking at here. Look, Thailand has 70 million people. As we have discussed in many other videos on this channel, the Tourism Council of Thailand about a year ago figured that between 2 to 3 million Thais were put directly out of work just from the Tourism Sector shutting down. So that alone is a huge swathe of people not to mention knock on tertiary folks operating in the tourism economy that perhaps made money off those folks, serving those folks or were sort of downline vendors to tourism when it dried up. Long story short, this has had a staggeringly negative impact on the Thai economy. So I really question and I do know people, at the same time I don't want to engage in some level of normalcy bias here or excuse me not normalcy bias, confirmation bias where it is my opinion is one thing and I am trying to confirm it. That is not my point. My point in coming to this is trying to ascertain what people are really thinking. I just simply, I really have to question whether almost 1400 people against 70 million and I would really love to know the demography of who was polled, under what circumstances. One of the great, it is kind of almost a political joke in the United States is when Alf Landon, he was from Kansas, ran against Franklin Delano Roosevelt for President, there was a poll where Alf Landon was almost the unanimous winner, he was polling that he was going to win the Presidency in a landslide victory. Well that poll was done as a telephone poll; polling was conducted by telephone. Well this was at a time when telephones were not ubiquitous in America. It was something that quite frankly middle, upper middle and wealthy people, maybe not even middle class people, but upper middle class and wealthy people had so Alf Landon was the candidate of that subset. They liked him and so that poll made it seem like Franklin Delano Roosevelt was going to lose that election and it turned out FDR quite frankly one in a huge landslide victory over Alf Landon. It was almost kind of comical; I think he won two states, I think it was Kansas and New Hampshire. He might not even have won Kansas, I don't even recall. 

In any event, the long story short, I saw this poll, the first time I saw it 60% of Thai folks who don't think we are ready to reopen, and I am here to tell you if you found 1,400 people in the Tourism Sector, I think it would go probably not 60%, it would probably be 100% the other way. If you went to other sectors, certain folks in the Medical Sector might go totally the opposite direction, I don't know. Long story short, and again I am not implying that anybody is out there purposely trying to mislead, not the point of this video, the point of the video is when I first saw this I just said "man that does not seem to comport with what I am seeing on the ground!" and then when I dug in a little bit further, sort of the sampling criteria and everything made me really question whether or not this in fact is indicative of the overall sentiment here in the Kingdom of Thailand because in my opinion from what I am seeing over here, Thai folks, everybody is really welcoming the re-opening and we are all hoping to put this behind us, get some tourism back here and see Thailand smile again.