Lies and Statistics . . .

Thought I must confess to having a mathematical mind, I have to say I was inflamed somewhat by the GCN "survey" of readers back in June. While I have to admit that I threw out the paper a while ago and couldn't get my hands on a copy, I was mildly annoyed by some of the findings which were published without questioning why they were likely to be the case. Even my Open University undergraduate Maths course taught me that its important, when looking at a case study, to assess some of the reasons why certain findings are the case.

Take, for example, the likely readership of GCN. The vast majority of copies of GCN are distributed via what is commonly known as the "scene" - the loosely connected network of commercial entities and community outlets that serve the segments of the gay "community" that are publicly "out." You won't get it in your local Centra. So this immediately excludes a vast number of potential gay people who either live too far from, are not interested in, cannot afford or just don't like the scene in the cities.

This has an enormous impact on any survey. For example, even within the commercial scene in the cities such as Cork, different pubs and clubs serve very different clientele. Likewise in Dublin. The woman who comes up for Kiss once a month from rural Ireland cannot be compared to an urban woman who sits in Dragon several nights a week. Yet the representation of the latter in a survey such as this is highly likely to be overrepresented quite simply because they are far more likely to be exposed to the survey. GCN only distributes a small percentage of its papers via postal subscriptions, and by far the bulk of the distribution is through pubs and clubs.

So to a large extent, this survey represented the club/pub going queer. Who is more likely to live in an urban area, to be younger, more affluent and less like to have children than a lot of people who are gay. This survey did particular disservice to the lesbian community, whose lifestyles are totally distorted all too often with stereotypical images in the media. I think it would be far more useful if surveys such as this mentioned these facts before they were replayed for the mass media in a great stereotypical display of gay smug like they were in June.


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