The Herald has had a poll for the greatest living New Zealander – and it apparently showed Helen Clark to be the greatest. Now that doesn’t really make much sense, sure she’s been PM for a while but that hardly earns her the title. On further analysis, it would actually have been nearly mathematically impossible for anyone else to come out on top, regardless of who really is the greatest.
My reasoning is: Out of the top 6, who got over 1000 votes each, the average voter would be familiar enough with 3 names to consider voting for them (they may recognise others but not be familiar with what they have done). But every single voter would be familiar with Helen Clark, as her name has been all over the media for 9 years.
So what would happen if everyone voted at random for someone they were familiar with, assuming everyone is familiar with Helen Clark and 2 other names?
Person Random Actual
Helen Clark 3559 3163
Willie Apiata 1424 2645
Sir Murray Halberg 1424 1467
Peter Jackson 1424 1340
Peter Snell 1424 1041
Colin Meads 1424 1021
- The random values are remarkably close to the actual votes – maybe people just did pick a name at random…
- Helen Clark actually did worse than would be expected if people had just voted randomly.
- Willie Apiata stands out as the only person who gained far more votes than would be expected if votes were randomised – he is therefore the winner of this poll in my mind.
- Even if you assume people are familiar with 4 rather than 3 names you get a similar result.
The fact is that the true “greatest living New Zealander” is probably someone none of us have ever heard of, and probably will never hear of.
Hat tip: New Zealand Conservative
EDIT: I am very encouraged by Apiata’s excellent result in this poll, as it shows that despite the fascination with sportspeople in our culture, people still recognise that courage under fire is of far greater worth than an ability to throw a ball well.