Polling The Numbers
reforme.ma is a very useful website. Its structure does not help, especially when using a facebook interface with comments from any user on everyone of the 108 articles is counter-productive; judging from the de facto mini-forum on each and every relevant constitutional article, I think the webmasters’ views are not being vindicated here, and so I don’t know if it is the best way to go down the debate on the constitutional reforms.
Furthermore, there’s little information: is it a government-sponsored initiative? Or is it the brainchild of a very enthusiastic web-citizens? Or a little of both? Anyhow, web-users should indeed feel grateful such an initiative took place. And I, among all others, have an additional motivation to feel grateful. Merci. This is a laudable initiative, whatever the person or organization behind it, mainly because it provides raw data more or less adequate for some polling computations. This is not criticism per se, but I just need to square things up about the data itself, and then the way I am putting it to use.
First, I am not a pollster -I know a couple of things about it due to a training I received some years ago- but it seems to me, for all its first-hand quality, this data is very messy, from every aspect of it. For one, asking people to vote Yes/No on every article (and there 108 of them) is not the best way to take the nation into confidence, so to speak. The binary choice tears apart any nuanced views on specific constitutional stipulations, and in matter of constitutional law, so I am told, there’s a great deal of nuance (what I call blurriness) to be observed in the enunciation of such legislation. The set of data therefore loses a great deal of its strength in understanding the kind of believes Moroccans nurse toward their own constitution.
There’s also the problem of sampling: to this date, and according to the website statistics, 144,171 likes/dislikes votes were recorded (and 2647 comments too). Now, the number itself is large enough to qualify as a working sample. and one can reasonably argue randomness properties can be observed with a sample of this size. But in real life, the voting sample’s representativeness is biased, and that is so for many reasons. First, there’s gainsay whether 144,000 physical voters did click on the ‘vote’ button. I personally did not vote down or in favour all articles, and as it happens I voted from two computers (or shall we say from two different IPs) as well.
That’s the mess, and it gets even messier when considering the voting population: no idea about their basic specifications, e.g. gender, demographics, education, geographical location, political allegiances or leanings, etc…. We can also be sure that there are large scores of Moroccan population that are left out of the process: how many of these voters already experienced a referendum in their life? How many voted yes or no on the 1962 referendum? How many of them are illiterate? What about the rural community or any community with a lower internet connection penetration rate? It is great to record the markedly improved figures ANRT (Agence Nationale de Réglementation des Télécommunications) publishes on internet connection, but surely there are substantial caucuses left out of this informal polling.
Note: I am being very harsh both on the idea of using this data for polling and on the validity of what I will present the readers with, but that is out of intellectual probity. I admit my interpretation will be somewhat partisan (beautifully argued with the use of statistics, but nonetheless skewed towards my side of the story) but then again, it will be the first serious attempt to prize up the nation’s shape of opinions.
Before we get down to business, I noticed a few outstanding votes on some articles, and even more remarkable instances of sensitive ones:
Article 19 has 55% votes in favour (with 45% against) but those with intermediate knowledge in statistics know error margin considerably reduce this seemingly clear win for Art.19 on a sample of 3189 votes (less than 160 votes could swing it back) (I was surprised by how narrow votes were on that particular constitutional roadblock)
Article 21 also shows a similar narrow voting (57% in favour indeed, but that could easily scale back to 50% for a 125 votes swing)
Article 23, on the other hand has a clear win (even with a 5% margin error, 67% is way out of the the error interval, as it takes a swing of 532 votes) and it is quite surprising to record a clear vote down on the article that enshrines the most His Majesty. Other outstanding votes are related to government prerogatives with substantial margins: Article 24 and 25 voted down with respective margins of 84% and 74%. Article 29 that delineates Dahir prerogatives is voted down as well, with a margin of 78%.
The general configuration of the current constitution is very surprising, and as far as I am concerned, very encouraging (as far as web users are concerned). Unless one is thinking all, or shall we say a substantial part of these voters are Algerian, Zionists, or even Libyan agents provocateurs, those who disliked the Kings powers, namely Articles 24 to 29 (basically the core of His Majesty’s prerogatives) and others on the side, that give the King a greater leverage, on appointing judges, or even chairing seemingly marginal constitutions. Again, setting aside the conspiracy theory, there is a large number (perhaps even larger than the historical 9%) that are fed up with the disproportionate concentration of powers in the royal hands.
What is even more extraordinary, the spread is even larger -in favour of Nay votes- in these very specific articles (24 to 29, 33 and 83 to name a few) and by large spread, I refer to a margin in favour larger than the Yay votes. On the other hand, other dispositions were voted down, related to Parliament as well as Government responsibilities and powers.
This is very encouraging and frustrating at the same time. But first, I should voice my frustration with this web-consultation, not because of its shortcomings, but because it simply underlines the cruel lack of polls in Morocco. Legislative obstructions, defiance towards such interviews from the public, and perhaps a misapprehension of market perspective from polling companies are but a few parameters that can account for the ridiculously low number of polls run in Morocco. This website has done an excellent job in shedding light on it.
I mentioned above the results are encouraging: it means a certain population -whose salient properties remain unknown, unless I can find time to screen 2647 + facebook and twitter profiles, a certain population that can be receptive of either calls for boycott or voting down (a Nay-l on the coffin of this commission. Pun-time) the draft constitution. It is also frustrating because there is no guarantee whatsoever this commission would hear my voice (read my lines, to be more precise) or draw the accurate conclusions from such vote.
The nihilists are coming, and they are coming to your town… (Let’s see if there’s a post-March 20 spike…)