Sunday 23 December 2012

I’m not so positive these surveys are reliable

At least now when someone wishes me merry Christmas and I say, “No,” I have good reason to do so.

According to Gallup, Singaporeans have the least positive emotions in the world (which some media reports have interpreted as Singaporeans being the world’s unhappiest people).

Gee, thanks, Gallup, for that lump of coal in our stocking.

Well, it’s hard to be positive when another Jack Neo movie has become the highest grossing Singapore film ever. Ah Boys To Men has made over $6.03 million, beating the previous record holder, Money No Enough.

Wasn’t Neo’s career supposed to be over after his 2010 sex scandal?

Hands up, anyone disappointed that it isn’t.

Could it be that Singaporeans are becoming numb to sex scandals after so many?

Just last month, Gallup also declared that we were the “most emotionless” society in the world.

Obviously, the poll must have been done before the Suzuki Cup final.

I wonder if Gallup ever did a poll to find out how seriously people take these polls.

Earlier this month, according to a survey by travel website TripAdvisor, Singapore was ranked second for Best Taxi Services among “40 key tourist cities around the world”. (Tokyo was first.)

Tell that to Mr Chris Reed. Remember him?

He’s the expat who earlier this year wrote quite emphatically that “Singapore has the world’s worst taxi drivers” in his blog.

I mean, did he actually taken a taxi in every city in the world to make this judgment?

I didn’t do a poll or anything, but my guess is that Singaporeans are more likely to agree with Mr Reed than TripAdvisor.

The trouble is that calling Singapore “worst” or “best” or “least” or “most” in anything is hyperbolic at best and specious at worst, even when it’s backed by a survey. Perhaps especially so.

When Mr Reed stated that Singapore’s cabbies are the worst in the world, it was clearly only his opinion. You can choose to agree or disagree with him.

But when TripAdvisor said its survey results were “based on more than 75,000 responses”, hey, that sounded almost scientific.

It wasn’t just one guy’s opinions. It was many guys, plus a few gals too, I bet.

But they’re still only opinions.

Taxi service in Singapore may not be the worst, but based on extensive first-hand experience (especially when it rains), Singaporeans also know that it can’t possibly be the second best among “40 key tourist cities around the world”.

Because if it is, I really feel bad for the 38 other cities.

Speaking of feeling bad, a few months earlier, Singapore also topped the list of healthiest countries in a Bloomberg survey.

That would help to explain why one out of five workers said they had to feign an illness to get a medical certificate to get off work, according to yet another survey, this time by the website JobsCentral.

Most of these workers said they faked being sick because they did not feel like working.

And can you blame them?

They can’t strike because then they would have to give 14 days’ notice, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Who asked Singaporeans to be so healthy?

That is the drawback of being the healthiest country – it forces one fifth of our workforce to malinger.

Could that explain why we’re the least positive despite being the healthiest and wealthiest in the world?

Bear in mind that Singapore also had the highest GDP per capita according to the Wealth Report 2012 published by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank.

Maybe Biggie was right – mo’ money, mo’ problems.

If money is the problem, then perhaps we should try giving mo’ of it away.

According to the World Giving Index 2011 by Charities Aid Foundation, Singapore ranked 91st out of 153 for donating to charity.

Yes, Virginia, there’s a survey for everything.

Or maybe we’re the least positive because Singapore women have been ranked the fifth most unfaithful out of 36 countries, according to a recent survey by Durex.

Or could the simpler explanation be that these surveys are just rubbish?

We’d be better off relying on the Mayans.

Or believing that video of the eagle picking up a child.

Not that such surveys are completely useless.

If not for them, I would have nothing to write about for today’s column.

But I would rather be Christmas shopping at Orchard Road.

Which, by the way, has been ranked the world’s No. 1 shopping avenue by Presence Mystery Shopping, a Paris-based market consulting company.

That makes me feel a pretty positive emotion. It’s almost merry.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 December 2012