back to article TV election debate 'worm' graph found to undermine democracy

The use of so-called "worm" approval graphs in televised election debates can strongly affect the way in which viewers will vote, opening up the possibility of the worm being used unscrupulously to undermine democracy. The warning on the possible subversive uses of the worm comes from psychology profs in the UK following a …

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Megaphone

So...

So, you could say...

*puts on sunglasses*

The worm has turned.

YEEEEEAAAAAHHHH

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WTF?

Breaking news...

People are sheep and easily led by the opinions of others

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Bronze badge

Oblig XKCD:

http://xkcd.com/610/

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Boffin

Bandwagon effect in action

"EVERYONE LOVES $CANDIDATE. You don't want to be left out do you? You don't want to be one of those weird, unpopular people, that others only talk about in hushed whispers? Vote for $CANDIDATE. It's the reasonable person's choice."

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This is why we have a secret* ballot

I can vote for whichever crank I want without my friends down the pub knowing about it. Though the chances of any party convincing me not to draw a willie on the ballot are pretty minimal.

* it's not really secret

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FAIL

No Shit!

The same can be said of any commentary on any event.

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Silver badge

Follow the herd

This is hardly a surprise, the general principle has been discussed for decades. Whether you want to look at Asch's experiments in the 1950's or just think "well, duh! that's called leadership: one person says 'do X' and all the sheeple will do it.".

There are numerous examples in day to day life where people are influenced by the views of others (you could even argue that this is how democracy works), from having a social conscience, to agreeing with the views of newspaper editorials, to doing what the uniformed authority figure tells you (though this may be more due to fear than conformity) - even down to religion or bidding wars on eBay.

So, are we surprised that a lot of people will take guidance about what is right or wrong from an anonymous line of "approval" from an unknown source about subjects they don't understand? No. Should we be worried that these same people are in a position to influence the outcome of an election, even though they have no opinions of their own? Maybe. Should we be worried that media organisations have the power, desire and ability to plant views, opinions and beliefs in peoples' minds and have the readers act on them? Definitely.

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Coat

But what happens when the worm turns?

Someone had to say it. Now its done and you can get on with proper comments

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Welcome

SHEEPLE FOLLOW WORM!

I'm more of a slug man myself.

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Anonymous Coward

+5 interesting, insightful

Slashdot/Reddit comes to political debates..... SCREW THAT!

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Thumb Down

Solution:

Stop voting for someone just because other people like him? God forbid having your own opinion...

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Anonymous Coward

TV Debates are Dumb Anyway

When we vote we should be primarilly voting for our local representative, not the party leader. As such the whole idea of televising debates between the party leaders tends to undermine the democratic process in this country. This is one of the reasons why PR is such a bad idea. A system of pure PR might sound like a good idea from a national perspective, but from a local perspective it's hopeless. It undermines the whole concept of a local representative.

These debates are all part of dumbing down of the whole democratic process. The media don't want politics to be complicated, if it is then they have to put some effort into the coverage.

If we're going to have presidential style debates we should be voting for a prime minister as a seperate vote from our local MP.

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Silver badge
Stop

TV debates...

... are simply about the Candidate looking good in front of an audience and being able to deliver pre-scripted soundbites whilst ignoring and dismissing the points that their opponents make.

In other words it's PMQs writ large and we all know how much nonsense that political Punch and Judy show is.

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Silver badge

undermines the whole concept of a local representative...

in a way that being a labour supporter in the south east, or a conservative in the valleys of wales, or a lib dem supporter.... pretty much everywhere at the next election :-) doesn't?

the first past the post system has given us parties with huge majorities in the commons, with share of the vote in the 30-40% region. yet that minority support gives 100% power to (nutjobs like blair and thatch), say go to war, flog off anything we own, introduce poll tax, make being gay illegal (ok bit of poetic licence), ram through 'anti-terror (anti fredom of speech & ascociation) regulation, the fecking mandy bill FFS, and many many more.

whats even remotely democratic about that?

I'm not the greatest fan of AV, but it will clearly provide results in each constituency that are 'the least disagreeable' candidate with over 50% of voters choosing.

and anything thet results in less disagreeable politicians _must_ be a good move

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If Jesus was standing

for the BNP in my area, I'd still not vote BNP.

Its party politics in general that undermines the idea of local reps.

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FAIL

On the subject of AV

According to Baroness Warsi, the BNP are really keen on AV because it will increase their vote.

Except the BNP are campaigning *against* AV. so either they're really stupid. Or she is.

Or both.

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Anonymous Coward

Stupidity proof

In fact, it's most likely that the BNP are opposed to AV because they think AV would be bad for Britain (they don't favour plurality; they want a single strong leader) and they are more interested in what's good for Britain than what's good for their party. Small parties are often idealistic like that. Alternatively, they know they'll never win an election but they can influence people's opinions and indirectly the policies of other parties.

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What, this is real?

I've seen these on The Onion, I didn't know they actually had them on TV.

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Silver badge
Boffin

So...

... what they've just proved is that you need a decent sample size to get a credible result.

In other news... bears... Popes... you know the rest.

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Silver badge

No, what you've proved is you need a proper filter on the sample selection,

because it isn't feasible to get a sufficiently large sample. Except that we know from experience that just means you'll get the bias of the filter.

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Silver badge
Thumb Down

"it isn't feasible to get a sufficiently large sample."

Why not?

The BARB TV audience figures are (according to their site) based on 5,100 households scattered across the country to represent all regions, why can't they (or a similar selection) be used to ensure that any possible bias from the "I'll vote for Party X come hell or high water" people is negated?

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Wrapped around the end-stop

Politicians are "talking" - why isn't the worm burying itself into the "dislike" part?

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Stop

And also

The whole idea that it's worth scrutinising a politician in real time as if a voter can offer a meaningful judgement after every utterance, blink and cough is stupid.

TV people should stop doing it on that basis alone, never mind the whole swaying elections thing.

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FAIL

Our pristine democracy...

"If our results were to generalise to the population at large, a biased worm in a debate shortly before polling day could determine the result of a close election," says Professor Colin Davis of Royal Holloway."

Otherwise, the system is perfect.... It's why we keep insisting on exporting our pristine system to the Afghanis, Iraqis, Vietnamese... Oh and Libyans.

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Unhappy

Voting is irrational

People only vote at all because everyone else is doing it. There is stuff all chance of any one persons vote making any difference.

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Aprils fool!

... In some country

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