Monday, April 19, 2010

The View On The Ground

A brief follow-up to the prior post re situational factors that could be in play in reaching a decision about resuming airline flights in Europe.  Fox News has been polling to assess the views of the public and the results of the poll are provided in the adjacent box.  Note that the overwhelming sentiment is that safety should be the priority.  Also note the wording of the choices, where the “yes” option appears to imply that flights should be resumed based on the “other” priorities such as money and passenger pressure, while the “no” option is based on safety being the priority.  Obviously the wording makes the “yes” option appear to be one where safety may be sacrificed.

So the results are hardly surprising.  But what do the results really mean?  For one it reminds us of the importance of the wording of questions in a survey.  It also illustrates how easy it is to get a large positive response that “safety should be the priority”.  Would the responses have been different if the “yes” option made it clear that airlines believed it was safe to fly and had done test flights to verify?  Does the wording of the “no” option create a false impression that an “all clear” (presumably by regulators) would equate to absolute safety, or at least be arrived at without consideration of other factors such as the need to get air travel resumed? 

Note:  Regulatory authorities in Europe agreed late today to allow limited resumption of air travel starting Tuesday.  Is this an “all clear” or a more nuanced determination that it is safe enough?

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