“91% of motorists back plan to force cyclists to sport registration plates, poll suggests”.
An article published in the Daily Mail on 18 August, also published online the day before, claims that “91% of motorists back plan to force cyclists to sport registration plates, poll suggests.”
It refers to comments made by transport secretary Grant Shapps proposing extending speed limits to apply to cyclists.
Mr Shapps said: “That obviously does then lead you into the question of ‘well, how are you going to recognise the cyclist, do you need registration plates and insurance and that sort of thing’. So I’m proposing there should be a review of insurance and how you actually track cyclists who do break the laws [via identifiable markings].”
According to the Mail’s article: “A poll of 1,500 drivers by motoring campaign group Fair Fuel UK found 91 per cent supported cyclists being forced to 'have road registration IDs'. Another 70 per cent backed them having insurance and 80 per cent supported speeding penalties.”
This poll, which remains open to respondents at the time of writing, was shared by Fair Fuel UK founder Howard Cox, who in a tweet described the online survey as “open to all”.
He told Full Fact: “No surprises most drivers tend to agree with [Mr Shapps’s] plans to scrutinise bad cycling. The poll clearly shows visual registration identification of cyclists is preferred. No one can contest that.”
But the survey’s results can’t be said to be representative of the views of drivers in general. This is because the results of the survey may be affected by self-selection bias, when the people who choose to answer a survey are not a typical selection of that group of people more widely, and thus might express different opinions from the group as a whole.
So this poll does not show that 91% of all drivers support this measure, only that 91% of those who took the survey and identified themselves as drivers do.
In this case, the poll was shared on social media by Mr Cox and Fair Fuel UK, and therefore was most likely to have been seen by supporters of that group. Fair Fuel UK describes itself as “fighting for fairer fuel taxation”.Mr Cox acknowledged that the survey was self-selected, and described it as “a quick dipstick look at Grant Shapps’ announcement.”
Sometimes self-selection bias is corrected for by using quotas or weighting respondents so the profile of respondents (such as their age or gender) matches the profile of the wider population of interest.
But in this case, the only demographic information captured which would allow you to quota or weight the results was location, meaning the survey can’t be said to represent all drivers.
We’ve written about the issue of self-selection bias in surveys a number of times before, including in a poll about teachers’ mental health, and a survey about GP retirement plans.
In addition, the poll did not explicitly ask respondents whether they felt cyclists should be “forced” to have registration plates, as the Daily Mail reported, but only whether they supported the idea of “registration IDs”.
Full Fact has contacted the Daily Mail for comment.
Image courtesy of Jack Young