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About What Britain Thinks (vote)

National poll on the war on Iraq

Contents:

  1. What is “What Britain Thinks”?
  2. Why do it?
  3. Isn’t it unfair that people without mobile phones can’t vote?
  4. Does it cost money to vote?
  5. Is it secure?
  6. What if I don’t agree with any of the statements?
  7. How will the results published?
  8. How will I know that it's accurate?
  9. What if I'm not in Britain?
  10. What will you do with all the mobile phone numbers you collect?
  11. Who is behind “What Britain Thinks”?

1. What is “What Britain Thinks”?
“What Britain Thinks” is a chance to collect and publish the view of a large proportion of people in the UK about the circumstances in which Britain should go to war with Iraq. It is being conducted by text message, and takes place between 9th and 23rd of March. The poll will accept only one vote from each phone; multiple votes will be excluded.

2. Why do it?
The original idea was a response to some people in government dismissing the march against the war on the basis that “only 1 million people marched, but 54 million didn’t”. The idea is to find a way to allow as many people as possible to express an opinion that can be set up quickly and cheaply. As well as providing the public with a chance to express their views on this important question, it is also a chance to understand better the opportunities and problems associated with collecting opinion in this way. We hope the learning from it will influence how policy making and voting are carried out in Britain in the future.

3. Isn’t it unfair that people without mobile phones can’t vote?
It’s not ideal, but this is not a government initiative. Over 80% of people in Britain have a mobile phone, which is a considerable improvement over small-scale polls. Another consequence of using mobile phones is that some people might have access to more than one and be able to vote twice, and that some of the mobile phones that vote will be used by children. This will effect how closely it is possible to call the result — if there is very large majority in favour of one of the statements, we believe it will remain a valid conclusion.

4. Does it cost money to vote?
To vote, you send a text message from a mobile phone. This costs whatever you normally pay to send a text message. There is no premium rate involved so, for most people, this is around 10p. We were not able to negotiate a reduction of the normal cost with mobile operators in time to do the poll. However, when it is complete and if, as we hope, a large number of people vote, we will be asking the mobile operators to donate a proportion of the cost of the messages to charity. You can influence the choice of charities by putting the name of your chosen charity in the text message when you vote. The direction of your vote will not have any effect on this, but you must vote to influence the choice.

5. Is it secure?
The mobile phone network (unlike the Internet) is designed to support billing, which means its designers had a vested interest in making it secure. That said, there are technical ways in which a vote might be faked. We have ways of identifying votes that are likely to have been faked in this way. As with question 3, we believe that the chance of fraud makes it harder to make a close call but does not invalidate a conclusive outcome.

6. What if I don’t agree with any of the statements?
Then don’t vote. However, we chose the statements to allow a spread of opinion while keeping things simple. We believe it’s better that you vote in a way that most closely represents your view than not to vote at all, because the success of this exercise depends on a large number of votes.

7. How will the results be published?
The top-line results — that is, the number of unique votes in favour of each statement — will be made available on this Web site and sent to the media. We aim to do this within a few hours of the closing of the poll, during the morning of Monday 24th March.

8. How will I know that it’s accurate?
We will make available the complete voting data set for others to analyse. This will show the time each vote was received, and also an anonymised number from which it was received (so that others can independently look for patterns that might suggest fraud).

9. What if I’m not in Britain?
The poll is for those who live under the rule of the British government. Although, for example, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands are not technically “Britain”, we knew it was important to get the idea known about quickly, and felt that this name communicated the scale of our intention. We hope we will not cause offence to anyone.

10. What will you do with all the mobile phone numbers you collect?
Nothing. When the poll closes, we will generate our final data (in which the original mobile phone numbers are replaced with anonymous numbers) and then destroy the original list, to be compliant with the Data Protection Act. The list of mobile phone numbers will not be made available to anyone. It will not be possible to tie any vote to a particular mobile phone.

11. Who is behind “What Britain Thinks”?
“What Britain Thinks” was set up by one person with the generous help of other people and companies. It is intended purely to allow as many people in Britain as possible to express their opinions on this important issue. It has no commercial or party-political objectives.

Vote by midnight on Sunday 23rd March
Results will be available on Monday 24th March.

See how to vote. Go->