See Crazy Numbers? Statistics Are Like Bikini, What They Show is Important, What They Hide is Critical

There is a humorous joke, that statiscians crack: “Statistics are like a bikini, what they shows is important, but what they hides is critical.”

Not very often, poll say 99% of the people of a country, support something, as contrtoversial as a military junta, with a dictator, as the head of state.

That statistics is important, but is the statistic hiding something?

And this question, is statistics hiding something, is a global problem, and polls have also found, for example, in North Korea and Iraq under Saddam, and a few other, such situation, also nearly 100% of the people support the tyrant and dictator of those countries.

What also occurse, with these question about statistics are hiding something critical, is that often, the press and much people on the social-media, in the countries, with a 99% support type poll results, does not question the polls result, but takes the poll seriously.

1)

Kingdom of Thailand: An Example

Lets look at Kingdom of Thailand, where a poll, indeed said 99% of the Thai people, supports the military junta, with the dictator, Prayuth, running the country. And lets first, establish a common bench-mark, about Kingdom of Thailand’s military junta and the junta dictator performance, that most globally, will agree on.

Kingdom of Thailand: A Bench-Mark

The Thai economy been tanking since the junta came to power, because investors, locally and globally lost a great deal of confidence in the Kingdom, with a stock market near two years low, and massive corruption all over. Then cabinet changes on poor performances happens and the junta is basically, re-branding the Shinawatra Family policies, and call them junta’s policies.

Thailand is rated not free, where even pressing “Like” on Facebook leads to jail, throwing people in jail for a long time, with lese majeste or insulting Royalty law, is out of control, arbitrary disappearances of activist happens often and military court is giving out sentence left and right, behind closed doors and no lawyears for defendant. Militaty corruption is ramphant.

Globally, few respect the Thai junta and the dictator Prayuth, and human trafficking & slave labor is rampant, even police charged with solving the problem has exiled Thailand. From UN, the EU to USA & UK, and other, all have, on many occasions, blasted the junta, on a variety of issues.

The list of how bad the junta is doing goes on and on, but Thailand’s statistics office just released a poll saying about 99% of Thais are happy with the junta and the dictator.

2)

So are the Thais just “Stupid People?”

Against the bench-mark performance on Thailand, about the only thing that has not happened, yet, under the junta, is massive demonstration and protest, and this because those who plans to protest, that are against the military junta and its policies gets arrested, before the protest can grow in size. But there have been many protest, of smaller size. And the threats and arrest of Thais who protest against the military junta, has basically, scared many, into self-censorship of various types, such as not joinning the protest.

3)

From the Guardian (source) 

Thailand’s junta releases poll showing 99.3% of citizens happy with its performance

Coup leaders have promised to return country to democracy in 2017 but continue to use powers to stifle dissent:

Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha salutes at a military ceremony in 2014. A junta-produced opinion poll says that 99.3% of Thais are happy with the military govrnment’s rule.

Thailand’s military junta, which took power in a coup last year and has smothered public criticism of its rule, has conducted a poll that found more than 99% of Thais are happy with its performance.

The National Statistics Office released the results of the poll, which questioned 2,700 people nationwide, one day before the government was due to present its one-year performance review.

Thailand’s rulers, who toppled the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup in May 2014, have stifled the media and banned political gatherings. They have promised to bring stability to a country that suffered months of bloody protests.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has attempted to boost morale in the country while also detaining journalists, academics and activists. The general wrote a new song this week for the end of the year titled “Because You Are Thailand” in an attempt to boost morale.

“I have only two hands and breathe alone. There may not be enough power to make a dream come true,” the song goes. “But if we join hands and breathe together, the day we hope for is not far away.”

It is not clear if the lyrics refer to general elections, which the military has promised to hold but not until at least 2017 as part of a complicated roadmap that can be delayed at several points.

Prayuth’s other tune, written a month after his military took power and called “Returning Happiness to the People”, is frequently played on state media.

The performance poll found 98.9% of respondents were confident in the government’s efforts to solve Thailand’s problems and 99.3% said they were satisfied with the overall performance.
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However, more than half said they wanted the government to further curb rising prices.

The Thai economy has suffered this year, with the IMF cutting growth forecasts for 2016 from 4 to 3.2%. A lack of private investment, in part due to political instability, has hampered economic gains.

The military-run government has been loath to accept criticism of its efforts and rights groups accuse it of using the country’s strict lèse-majesté law, written to protect the reputation of the monarchy, to silence those who oppose it with long jail terms.

Earlier this year, Prayuth said he had the power to shut down news outlets and when asked how the government would deal with journalists who do not “report the truth”, he responded: “We’ll probably just execute them”.

He has also defended the use of “attitude adjustment”, a detention program where anyone can be held for a few hours to several days to be scolded for criticism of the government.

“If you let them blame me, the people and society will listen to them every day, and one day they’ll believe in the things they say,” Prayuth explained in September after two politicians were brought in for questioning his handling of the economy.

Asked who else he would use the law against, Prayuth said: “Everyone whose comments cause division, bad intent to the government, criticising the things the government didn’t do, causes trouble and blames a government that’s trying to improve the country, I will consider.”

4)

Over at Asian Correspondent, journalist,

Saksith Saiyasombut (‏@Saksith), posted on the 99% poll result:

“On opinion polls under the Thai Junta, I’ll refer to my usual disclaimers”

4/1)

On ‘happiness’ and Thai opinion polls after the military coup

by Saksith Saiyasombut | 24th June 2014 | @saksith

(source)

We here at Siam Voices usually do not cover Thai opinion polls for two reasons: first, there are too many of them out there on a weekly basis by the major survey institutes (ABAC, NIDA and Suan Dusit) alone, and second, they’re mostly crap! The main problems with Thai opinion polls are the wording of the questions and a rather small sample size of the people being surveyed. There have been several examples in the past that at least raised some eyebrows about the questions asked and the results that come out of that – see a few of Bangkok Pundit’s numerous posts here, here and here.

After the military coup last month at the height of a prolonged political crisis with street protests and a (man-made) political impasse, the first several opinion surveys are saying that the general mood has improved – despite heavy-handed and draconian measures such as media censorship and detentions by the military junta and a “happiness campaign” to win back the hearts and minds it those it had intimidated.

Let’s start with Suan Dusit Rajabhat University‘s June 15 survey, ranking the top 10 things that made 1,634 respondents the most happy about the military coup (paraphrased):

No more political protests – 93.09%
Situation is safer – 87.12%
Reduced cost of living, fixed fuel and gas prices – 85.99%
Rice farmers are getting paid – 84.29%
Fixing the economy – 80.24%
Battling corruption – 77.32%
Commitment of junta’s work – 73.53%
Soldiers ensuring a safer daily life – 73.14%
Increased arrests of criminals – 71.96%
Free stuff by the junta (World Cup free-TV coverage, concerts, movie tickets etc.) 71.31%

“ความสุขที่ประชาชนได้รับ จาก คสช.”, Suan Dusit Poll, June 15, 2014 – (PDF)

None of the previous Suan Dusit surveys (among them titled “Top 10 things Thais think should be reformed” and “What the junta needs to say to convince you“) have actually asked if the respondents are actually happy with the military coup. That was remedied in the most recent poll by them on June 22, on the one-month anniversary of the coup.

The National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta is known, scored an approval rating of 8.82 out of 10 points in a poll of 1,600 people conducted by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University and released Sunday.

Those surveyed cited the junta’s ability to quickly implement short-term measures needed to restore stability and economic confidence, as the main reasons for their positive reviews.

The majority of the people polled said they were satisfied with the absence of the protests and political violence that began at the start of the year and escalated until the military took charge of the government on May 22.

About 65% of respondents said they wanted the military to remain in charge of the country to complete its measures to eradicate corruption and speed up economic and political reforms.

“Thai Junta Scores High Approval Rating, Despite Concerns“, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2014

To be precise, they asked 1,614 people in the final question:

5. How satisfied are you with the junta’s governing after one month?

50.84%: Very satisfied, because situation is peaceful, order has been restored, problems being solved swiftly etc.
39.57%: Somewhat satisfied, because security has improved etc.
5.27%: Not satisfied, because it’s only a short-term solution, there’re still conflicting news etc.
4.32%: Not satisfied at all, because it’s undemocratic, rights are being restricted, no freedom etc.
“ประเมินผลงาน 1 เดือน คสช. ประเมินผลงาน 1 เดือน คสช.”, Suan Dusit Poll, June 22, 2014 – (PDF)

However, in a previous question in the same survey 37.98 per cent of respondents also see that people who are “not accepting and protesting the coup, saying their rights are being restricted” as an actual problem!!

Another head-scratching survey result was carried out by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) – whose political impartiality is questionable, since NIDA-associated personnel were involved in the anti-government protests – which found this…

The Nida Poll was carried out on June 20-21 on 1,259 people all over the country to gauge their opinion on who the NCPO should nominate for prime minister. Most of the respondents, 41.30%, said the NCPO should nominate Gen Prayuth, the army and NCPO chief, for the post.

This was followed by 8.5% for two-time former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, 2.38% for former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, 1.43% for former finance minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and 1.19% for former deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

“Most Thais want Prayuth as PM“, Bangkok Post, June 22, 2014

It found 5.24 per cent suggested former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra, Abhisit Vejjajiva, Chuan Leekpai, Gen. Surayud Chulanont among other politicians and senior military figures. That leaves a significant 26.5 per cent that had no answer at all, while 10.33 per cent said nobody’s apt for the post – that’s hardly an overwhelming “majority” as the Bangkok Post has titled it.

And finally, in the wake of the junta organizing free screening of the fifth installment of the nationalistic, dramatized biopic series of the 16th-century King Naresuan, the ABAC Poll of the Assumption University:

The opinion survey was carried out on June 15 and 16, involving 424 people who went to see the free screenings of the movie on Sunday.

Nearly all respondents, 95.3% to be exact, said they came away happier after seeing the film. However, 5.4% said they were only moderately happy with it, while 0.9% said they were no happier.

“Thais cheered up by Naresuan movie“, Bangkok Post, June 17, 2014

That sentiment was also echoed by the so-called “Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association” (whose name apparently is mangled in translation) whose majority (93.7 per cent) of 424 Bangkok-based moviegoers were “happy” to have seen the movie – what else would an institution with that name have found out? Just to be clear, a sample of only 424 people are overwhelmingly positive about a movie they have seen for free!

All these surveys prove the main problems with Thai opinion polls – a small sample group and the wording of the questions and possible answers – still exist. This is especially true in the post-coup environment, where criticism of the military is difficult at best and public dissent not tolerated. It is unlikely that the positive-sounding poll results reflect the complete picture – which also explains why the deputy national police chief can claim that “90 per cent of various opinion polls support” the junta’s work.

Only a real, all-encompassing method to hear out the opinion of a large section of the population could bring in a clearer picture like, you know, a referendum, or an election…!

4/2)

Why are some opinion poll results so positive about the Thai junta?

by Saksith Saiyasombut | 24th September 2014 | @saksith

(source)

”The streets are quiet, there are no protests and people are happy!”

This is a common justification of the military coup in Thailand. And often – despite apparent ongoing repression of dissent – the proponents of the army’s actions base these claims on the results of opinion polls.

A couple of months ago we highlighted the flawed fallacy of taking opinion poll results as a serious indicator of the mood among Thais and what they think of the current political situation, especially about the junta and their work.

Apart from the general problems with Thai opinion polls (i.e. dodgy methodology and phrasing, small sample sizes, questions about representation etc.), the circumstances since the coup – such as the crackdown on criticism on the street, online and in the media – are discouraging people from expressing their true feelings:

According to one pollster, a number of respondents refused to be interviewed when asked about their political views for fear that they would be “summoned” by the junta.

As a result, the respondents are dominated by either yellow-shirt supporters or people who are politically neutral, said the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

Mainstream polls have provided glowing praise of the performance of the National Council for Peace and Order since it seized power on May 22, amid orders curbing freedom of expression of the media and anti-coup protesters.

”NCPO ‘deterring’ honest opinion polls”, Bangkok Post, August 3, 2014

Besides the likely skewed results by the established opinion poll institutes like ABAC, Bangkok University and Suan Dusit (whose results and methods have been also often criticized in the past), a new organization is raising suspicion with findings such as this:

Up to 95 per cent of the public support junta chief and PM-elect Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha as the prime minister, the Master Poll survey has found. The survey was carried out by Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association among leaders of 622 communities around the country on Friday and Saturday.

“Prayuth receives public overwhelming support as PM: survey“, The Nation, August 24, 2014

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has gained increased popularity since it seized power in May with latest poll by the Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association revealing the junta’s popularity now rises to 81 percent from 70.1 percent.

“Military junta’s popularity rises“, ThaiPBS, September 22, 2014

The “Master Poll” surveys (no reason given why they’re called that) are conducted by the Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association (TRICHA), which emerged very shortly after the military coup on May 22, 2014. Its first poll on June 14 right away found that 80.8 per cent among 1,209 people are “happier” ever since the hostile takeover.

Other surveys in the past couple months included asking 599 people about the weekly Friday evening TV address by outgoing army chief, junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha (90 per cent are watching it regularly! 95 per cent like it!) or asking a diminutive sample size of 424 moviegoers if they liked the junta-organized screenings of the of the fifth installment of the nationalistic, dramatized biopic series of the 16th-century King Naresuan – guess what: 93.7 per cent of them came out “happier” because they got to see a movie for free!

Not only are nearly all results of their “Master Poll” surveys suspiciously overwhelmingly positive towards the junta, despite a relatively small sample size (in most cases below a 1,000), but also the sudden appearance of TRICHA itself shortly after the coup does raise some questions.

In a message on TRICHA’s website (in which the survey results are in Thai, but everything else oddly is in English), it states that, “As one of private companies in Thailand, (…) the Master Poll and Policy, Co., Ltd. plays a leadership role as one of the country’s organizations for academic research and policy making.” (sic!) This message is signed by an unnamed “Association’s Chief”, whose profile on the website is empty as of writing, as are many other sections.

A look at the website’s domain registration reveals that both masterpoll.net and tricha.net are registered to Mr. Noppadon Kannika, who has also been occasionally named as TRICHA’s director in the Thai press (e.g. here). According to his bio from his Alma Mater University of Michigan (where he graduated in Survey Methodology), he was director of the ABAC Poll Research Center and has held “some official positions,” including one at the Royal Thai Army – indeed, he has been research advisor to the commander-in-chief in the past.

According to his profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn, he left ABAC to pursue another Master degree at Georgetown University in Strategy and Policy Management, while his Twitter bio still links to ABAC Poll, but has been regularly tweeting news articles about the “Master Poll” results. The masterpoll.net domain was registered on May 15, 2014 – one week before the military coup. That could be just a coincidence. However, Mr. Noppadon’s LinkedIn page lists the “Royal Thai Army” as his current employer while his job title is, according to himself, “unknown”!

Given the relative lack of information on the TRICHA’s website, the apparently suspicious career choice its director made recently and ultimately a bunch of questionably one-sided survey results are ultimately clear indicators that these are very weak foundations to base an universal assessment of the Thai people’s happiness – especially in the current political climate where only very few options and opinions are tolerated.

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