Occupy Central Part III: Who are the Radicals?

Trey | 22 June 2014 | Comparativist

Let’s take the Wikipedia definition of political radicalism and play with it. It is a a term denoting, “political principles focused on altering social structures through revolutionary means and changing value systems in fundamental ways.” Radicalness, then, might be defined as the distance between what currently exists and the types of political change envisioned. How can we measure this?

We might take the form of opinion polls. One recent poll finds that 36.4% of Hong Kong’s population was inclined to support pan-democrats, while only 20.4% were incline to support the ‘pro-establishment’ camps. Neither side owns a majority here, but one has a clear plurality. This is nuanced by a phantom poll that Alex Lo cites repeatedly showing that 54% would essentially settle for Beijing’s approach to executive recruitment. Yet no traces of this poll can be found online, nor are other similar ones evident, making it difficult to know (a) what the margins of error are, (b) how the population was chosen [in the US, ‘likely voters’ is the usual sampled population], (c) how the question was worded, and (d) what the other questions were.

For instance, we don’t know what those polled actually preferred – only what they would settle for. When Lo writes that, “survey after survey has shown public nomination, which underpins all three plans being voted on in the ‘referendum’, does not have majority support”, one doesn’t know how specious the claim is. Or even whether Alex Lo knows how to read opinion polls.

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